This week’s TDWI conference turned out to be one of the biggest, with over 1000 attendees and another 200 executives at the BI summit.
A highlight from the Executive Summit was hearing Michael Masciandaro, BI Director at Rohm and Haas, provide practical tips on where to start with BI. He presented all the lofty goals often discussed at this conference – great data quality, robust architecture – and advocated not to start there. Instead, start with something “embarrassingly small” with a subject area or application that has no competition.
The BI 2.0 discussion gave credibility to the importance of “eye candy” in making BI appealing and improving adoption among skeptical users. The use of Flash in MicroStrategy Enterprise Dashboards and Crystal Reports 2008 seemed to dazzle IT and business executives alike. Mark Madsen’s demonstration of mashups was nothing short of cool. He contrasted statically displayed crime data – the normal display for most police departments – with such data more effectively integrated with Google Maps. The town spent big bucks on the less usable display whereas the mashup was put together by a passionate programmer in his spare time.
At the “BI Bake Off” course, I was once again surprised at how many attendees are doing a first time BI suite selection, roughly 40% of the 100 who took this course. Companies trying to rationalize the number of tools also take this course. Despite the reality of companies having multiple tools from multiple vendors, I was still staggered when a banking person revealed his institution had 23 different products (not multiple modules from 1 vendor, but products!).
A final question from an attendee to the vendor panel (Business Objects, Microsoft, Oracle) took me by surprise. “Given Cindi just told us where your products are weak and gave some red and yellow scores for each of you, what do you think your weak points really are?” There was a pregnant pause. I laughed, suggesting he would not get such an honest answer in a public forum. To my surprise, each vendor did respond, for the most part somewhat candidly (offline, I normally hear those red scores are ALL wrong J!). But of course, a recurring theme to the answers was “everything is fixed in the next release!”
So I leave Las Vegas , with my now smoke-scented clothes (hey, if Paris can ban smoking, why not Las Vegas ?!?!), thinking BI is not at all a mature market. Innovation continues to come from vendors big and small, and if conference attendance is any indication, the BI market remains strong.