Sunday, March 20, 2011

RMOUG 2011 - BI & EPM Panel

This was my second year at RMOUG where I had two sessions, namely:
1) BI EPM Panel on March 16 and
2) A talk "Competing on Appliances" on Mar 17.

While for a talk you have to write a white paper and submit your presentation deck, a Panel requires gathering a group of people with experience and eminence in the related space. For the BI (DW) and EPM Panel, I was able to get in touch with the below and get them excited about the event:
Robyn Sands fro Cisco,
Faun deHenry from FMT Systems,
Stewart Bryson from Rittman Mead and
Tim Gorman from Evergreen Database Tech

While some of the Panelists knew each other, some were meeting for the first time. The biggest challenge is to make sure that we present a coherent story to the audience, specially if it is not a well-rehearsed session. Given, all the last minute conference related items (like travel for one!), it is rarely possible to be able to rehearse in advance. So this leads to a challenge to manage the Panel in real time and the Moderator has to act as the "glue" between the Panelists and the audience.

To give myself some latitude i Panels, I try to propose a broad topic, this time it was BI and EPM - Critical Success Factors. Since I did not have a prior circulated set agenda, I tried to take the Panelist responses and turned them into a theme and a dialogue. This is best done by providing a few teaser questions and phrases to the Panelists around the topic.

The team selection is critical to provide a 360 view of topic. In this case I trie ot get a customer (Robyn), someone around BI implementations (Stewart), some around BI Strategy (Faun) and then Tim as the DB/DW heavy-weight.

During the discussions, the topics that came up are:
> Iterative processes for BI projects, and
> Executive buy-in for BI and Analytics in the organization

No longer customers, are in favor or 2-3 yr large DW projects with waterfall methodology and willing to wait a few years before the mega "EDW" goes to production. The Panelist noted they are sessiing more incremental or agile BI approach with some deliverables every 90-120 days. This could be just one new subject area or a subset of it, depending upon the size of the company and EDW project. Robyn mentioned the need for showing results to the business and Executive sponsor along the way. She mentioned "BI projects are long, involved and expensive: asking the business to trust that they’ll be happy with the results when it’s all over isn’t going to get them on board. But when we can give them something they can see, even when it’s just a small piece of the total picture, that’s really the only way to ‘transfer the vision’ to the shareholders and those that need to champion the project."

Since BI / EPM projects, do have sizable costs (software, infrastructure and development, support costs), top executive buy-in and the " analytics culture" has a big role in success of the BI projects. I would like to quote Faun who mentioned , "Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast" [from Peter Drucker] is quite true for BI/EPM too. You can come up with a neat BI strategy but it is the culture of the company that will ensure its adoption and implementation.

As Oracle has become a H/W and S/W player now, often infrastructure decisions are taking a center stage of BI discussions. Stewart defined it as the "beautiful marriage" of Exadata and OBIEE. In other words, some of the BI technology decisions can be made with the infrastructure in mind. A simple example might mean less indexes in the Star schema if it will be deployed on a powerful DW appliance.

To support that BI/EPM is an iterative process, Faun mentioned organizations and economic environments change, which demands that BI/EPM programs are refined and redefined over time. A successful BI effort requires 3 different skill sets -- business, analytic, and technology skills.

Tim observed, that several analytics oriented applications are emerging in the Oracle landscape like Demantra (an analytic application for trade promotions, campaigns etc). Such applications are bridging the gap between the ERP applications and BI / EPM applications. I understand the BI will be more embedded into the next generation Oracle Fusion (ERP) Applications.

You might have noticed even though we had EPM in the title we were lighter on the EPM content and party due to the nature of the profile of the audience.

Feel free to post any comments here on the Panel and its subject content.

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