Los Angeles – Some high-level thoughts and observations from the Gartner business intelligence conference this week in sunny California (the MDM summit starts today in the same location):  

- Traditional topics (e.g. conformed dimensions, OLAP, taxonomies and data models) are on display, but there are other topics (see below) we didn’t see coming two years ago. BI increasingly needs to be simple and fast, and now, operational. I heard more than a few presenters from brick-and-mortar companies say that business wants metrics and intelligence institutionalized in near real-time processes across functions, departments and geographies. They want a common dictionary of business measurement that is fair to potentially conflicting interests, such as procurement vs. logistics.

- With CPU and storage costs falling and falling, there is less talk of building business cases and more of getting sponsors to be owners and getting the funding model right for things like a next-generation BI competency center.

- Mobile and social BI approaches are pressuring the supply and demand sides of information management. Agile methodology (I’m still leery of the term “agile BI”) and iterative development are widely recommended and support this mood.

- We’re not endorsing anybody’s opinion, but Donald Farmer, formerly with Microsoft and now with QlikView spoke for a lot of hopes when he said, “there are no longer end users, every user is the start of something, a node in the creation of information that is no longer highly centered and radial.” It’s the new view of BI, but stand by for complications (see next point).

- Not that it hasn’t happened before, but there is a bifurcation between consumers looking at the analytic tool providers versus BI platform vendors. The latter are miffed that so many visualizations are on display with no regard to where the data is coming from. They’re also a little resentful that we’re not talking more about data quality and governance (which is absolutely a shark that is absolutely going to repeatedly gnaw any organization or effort that ignores it).

The looming Gartner MDM conference might reverse some of this sentiment. With consumerization and applification, businesses are sensing that, with the right tool, data sources and analytics, a new nugget of value in revenue, cost or compliance is out there waiting to be discovered. Like gold fever, this instinct is spreading amid optimism for a lower cost and risk environment to own or rent, experiment, succeed or fail in.  

- Everybody here but me has an iPad. A year ago last February when these things started popping up, I polled the owners and found they were doing very little with them. This time around they are running application demonstrations and session presentations, fronting the sales pitches for vendors and tweeting the speakers out mid-session. For everyone but heavy data entry people (like journalists!), the new interface is reverentially embraced and has arrived.