Lights! Action! Insight! As we begin to change our data warehousing focus from getting data in to getting information out, we need to enter the information broadcasting business. Just like CNN, TNT and ESPN have done, we need to develop an information broadcasting network within the organization.
A recent survey by Forrester Research concluded that 62 percent of the companies interviewed had data warehouses in production. This fact indicates a significant passage for those of us who have been consumed with data warehouse development over the last 10 years or so. Development, for the most part, has been stabilized. Forrester suggests that the "field of dreams" approach to building data warehouses is no longer working toward creating competitive advantage for our organizations. When we build it, they don't necessarily come. What is needed, Forrester claims, is for us to "bury the plumbing"--the code that provides data movement and cleansing--so that the important work of condensing business value from the data can begin.
Well, let the value begin! But how? There are two ways. One, we can train business people to access data directly for themselves to perform ad hoc types of analyses. Two, we can publish or broadcast information that is key to making business decisions within the organization. The first alternative is for the few individuals who are highly motivated to become trained on data and tools. Many of us have offered tools for ad hoc access by analysts for some time. The second alternative is for the masses--the remainder of business analysts and managers who need important decision support information, but who are not able or willing to become trained in either manipulating data or in using the tool(s) necessary to extract value. Most of us have not offered much assistance to this audience. Therein lies a resource for deriving business value that can be tapped by getting into the information broadcasting business.
There is an analogy for information broadcasting with the entertainment broadcasting business. We could produce movies, where people come to us (like the data access alternative). Or we could produce TV shows, where we go to the people (like the information broadcasting alternative). Of course, if we want to provide a balanced approach, we could do some of both.
Traditional business intelligence tools can and do provide solutions to the data access alternative. But we need to think about the many people whose needs for information cannot be met with the movie/data access/business intelligence tool alternative. How do we go about creating an information broadcasting network? An intranet can help broadcast the information that is critical to our organizations' existence. We can publish information that can be accessed by the masses via a browser. This, in effect, is the proactive delivery of business intelligence.
We can think about this proactive delivery of BI in the same manner as a TV entertainment or sports broadcasting network. We need a head of network programming who decides what gets broadcast based on its value to the organization. This needs to be a person that has visibility and credibility within the business. Information broadcasts need to be scheduled for certain times of the day/week/month based on the business need for information, just like television programming is scheduled based on the audience expected during certain time periods.
We should use polls or surveys to determine what information programming is working and what is not. Just TV broadcasting uses an ongoing feedback process to change programming based on audience preference. Managing information publishing as an ongoing process can enable a constant repetitive loop from broadcast to feedback to decision on what works and back to broadcast.
We need an information director. Just like the director of a TV show, the information director is responsible for getting information or reports on the intranet, on time, in a way that pleases the audience. The director is also responsible for making sure the information correctly represents the business issue at hand (that the "show script" is adhered to). The information director can provide for different camera angles--different views or dimensions of the information to hone in on--that can provide the most meaningful transference of business insight.
With the majority of data warehouses in production, we need to help our companies get what they really wanted from data warehousing to begin with--business value. Developing an information broadcasting function can provide information when people need it (like TV stations do, with news at 6:00 p.m., sporting events as they happen, etc.), with consistency of context (like presenting weather in the same way each day so that trends can be discerned). Information can be provided in a ubiquitous access mode (i.e., a browser) that everyone has (like a TV), with a variety of programming available (like sales volumes, key business indicators, customer calls, performance measures, etc.). We can proactively service people who need information, but not the difficulty of using a separate access tool, providing valuable business insight in the process.
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