Tired Terms and Real Trends

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In business intelligence, and information management generally, it can be as politically touchy to suggest there's been progress as it is to say there's a problem in the first place.

Trendy terms can get you in trouble when you're selling ideas to people who are already heavily invested mentally and time-wise in their jobs. That might have a part in why the last couple of discussions in this space about governance touched off a bit of antipathy among both IT and business parties.

I can respect that. Platitudes are not what we confront at 8:30 a.m. or whenever we return to the stack of work on our desks. Marketers, analysts and journalists are wise to tread lightly with terminology, but we're getting ready for new ideas, so here goes.

On the internal IT (supply) side of BI and related technologies we've heard a lot about being "agile," that has worn thin among some readers, though my latest agile update at the The Data Warehousing Institute conference in San Diego last week felt very constructive.

It was there that TDWI analyst Philip Russom talked about all things agile not being equal, for example that integration is much tougher than reporting, and the need to adjust resources. Paul Kautza, also with TDWI, was discussing different dimensions of agility in areas like analytics, infrastructure and architecture, a more constructive discussion than just ordering IT to be iterative and "flexible."

It got us to talking about the nuance, the people skills, business processes and business overlap at an IT-leaning educational conference, that has an increasing business component in an adjacent executive summit. It felt like the "outside of plan" business (demand side) reality of BI. We'll shortly be posting some video (spring videos here) discussions we hope you'll find useful (disclaimer: best practice success results vary highly depending on where you work).

The next day I was back in Philly on DM Radio talking with host Eric Kavanagh, Forrester Research's Clay Richardson and other interesting guests. It was a really good show in which Clay, a longtime business process management guy, flipped the argument to say that it's now business, not IT, that stands in front of a new theme, a fire hose of "continuous disruption."

Based on reader fatigue with terminology, I wish he hadn't done that, though I know where he is coming from. Since Clay is very good at what he does, he has the credentials to match the ante of "big data" with "big process." (I have liked the idea of big process for a long time as an antidote to IT fixation, though I only whisper it around certain crowds.)

What Clay said is that we're seeing a shift from IT to "business technology" where the business takes more ownership of driving technology solutions. In current scenarios, the business is partnering with IT, but now has the cloud, mobile and other directly accessible technologies as well. Innovation is happening so quickly at the edge of the organization and with the customer, he figures, IT and enterprise architecture can no longer keep up with the pace. It's almost like IT and the enterprise architecture function becomes a sort of venture capital group, he says, that takes in ideas and invests in the best ones.

That doesn't make transaction, integration, analytic and other enterprise-wide infrastructure go away, and IT has no choice but to prepare for change anyway I replied, but "the edge" is where the action often is now, whatever you call it.

Based on a collection of inputs and experts (not just analysts, by the way) we've begun to revisit our content taxonomy at Information Management toward more of a continuum of internal and external resources facing information. That means business and IT are not always the monogamous partners they were, and we may make less of a big deal about segregating internal and external services. It's separating the "I" from the "T" and putting both in orbit with the "B." That's kind of like what Forrester is doing with "BT," but for us, that world revolves around information processes.

Open relationships can bring conflict, but a lot of you will agree that walls have already come down. I'm definitely not speaking for Forrester Research or TDWI, but Richardson and Kautza and the rest of us all want to know what our assets are, where they are, how well they serve our purposes and what our choices are.

For Information Management, we'd like to simplify our content and not make it harder to use, but that's never a sure thing. Some folks are going to like it, and others probably won't. And there's a chance we and our friends might all fall on our faces or need another update before we wished. But that's the dynamic of our space and it has to be done sooner or later.

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