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Innovation in the "how" as well as the "what"

11 August 2010

I got picked up for tweet I made recently during a webinar.   The webinar was Agile BI Made Easy: Two Proven Paths to Success that WhereScape put on with Composite Software.  This was a new concept for us – while Composite and we believe there are different and smarter approaches to solve common problems, our approaches are quite different, and people will generally end up picking one or other of us rather than both.  Makes for an a more interesting webinar, but that is another story.

Industry analyst Boris Evelson (@bevelson) was the headliner for the webinar, and he made a great pitch for how agile BI can be used in the face of deployment efforts that are often underestimated, have ever-changing user requirements, with a growing user base and rapidly growing volumes and complexity in the data.

I tweeted that it is not the “what” it is the “how” that is changing, which was my take on one of Boris’ slides.  I got picked up on it later by James Kobielus (@jameskobielus), who disagreed and gave a couple of examples that showed the “what” is changing as well.  Now of course he is right – there is a ton of new, innovative ”what” changing out there.  He gave the examples of predictive and current (I am sure he could have given more, but hey, he only had 140 characters).

So yes, he is right, but I still think it misses the point.  Thankfully there is constant innovation being carried out in the business intelligence space, and there is certainly room for a lot more.  But it was great to be actually talking about a problem that has been around for a long time and is generally ignored  – data warehouses take too long to build, and once they are built they are too hard to change.  This is a real problem in the data world.

There are a lot of reasons for this –data volumes, difficulties of scope control in enterprise data initiatives, hard to pin down requirements, refactoring large data sets etc etc.  But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem.  The current interest in agile bi and agile data warehousing techniques is overdue and healthy.   

It is great to see an age old issue being exposed and talked about.  And if we can do a better job of building, rebuilding and managing data warehouses it only makes the "what" story even better.

As an aside I can recommend Boris Evelson’s excellent research Agile BI Out Of The Box:  Reduce Development Time And Effort With Metadata-Generated BI Applications , which was the impetus behind the original webinar.  If you would like a copy contact us or leave a comment and we will send one through. 


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