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The Trouble With Multiple Truths In Business Intelligence

David Rathbun

The goal of business intelligence (BI) is to achieve a “single version of the truth,” so you can make more informed business decisions.

But, as I’m about to share, the truth can change depending how you ask the question.

An Example Of Multiple Truths:

  1. What is the highest mountain on Earth?
  2. What is the tallest mountain on Earth?
  3. Which mountain on Earth has the biggest elevation gain?

Did you guess Mount Everest for any of the above questions? I will give you a hint: each of the above questions has a different answer… all because of how the metric is defined. Let’s look at each of them individually.

Highest Mountain

It turns out that while Mount Everest gets all of the press, it’s not the highest mountain on our planet. There is a mountain in Ecuador called Mount Chimborazo which—due to its proximity to the equator—actually extends further into space than its more famous Himalayan cousin.

The areas around the Earth’s equator bulge out due to the centrifugal force applied by the planetary rotation. That means that Mount Chimborazo, while only the 30th highest peak when measured from sea level, is actually more than 7,000 feet further from the center of the planet! Keep in mind that it’s the entire area around the equator that’s impacted by the centrifugal force, so sea level is going to be further from the center of the Earth there as well.

The established way to measure the height of a mountain is to measure the distance from sea level. But by using a different metric definition, I can establish a different “highest” mountain.

The point I am trying to make is that it’s very important to define metrics—and enforce the definition consistently. If I don’t define a consistent “zero point” for my metrics (sea level versus center of the Earth in this example), then any information could be biased at best or flat out wrong at worst.

Tallest Mountain

It turns out that Everest isn’t able to claim this title either! The volcano that forms the base for the “big island” of Hawaii is also taller than Everest. Everest has about 13,000 feet of elevation gain from base to peak. Mauna Kea has a 33,000-foot rise. The difference, of course, is that Mauna Kea starts on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

So what’s my “best” year for sales? Is it the year that had the highest total revenue? Highest net revenue? Best increase from prior year to current year? Was that increase measured in raw numbers (dollars) or percentages? Getting all of these definitions nailed down is often the most difficult part of building out a BI solution.

I’ve been picking on Everest. It’s not the highest mountain, and it’s not the tallest mountain, but surely it must have the biggest elevation gain, right? At least for mountains that start on land?

Biggest Elevation Gain

It turns out that Everest once again loses out. From the base of the mountain to the peak, the elevation gain runs about 13,000 feet. It turns out that the north face of Denali—the tallest (or is that highest?) ;-) mountain in North America—has a recognized elevation gain of over 18,000 feet, or almost a mile more than Everest.

Denali is incredibly dramatic, as it almost seems isolated. The base of the mountain sits on a series of plains that are between 1,000 and 3,000 feet from sea level. (See what I did there? I qualified my metric.) ;) From that base, the mountain rises to over 20,000 feet. Everest sits high up on the Tibetan Plateau with a base elevation of 4,200 to 5,200 feet. Even though the peak of Everest has a higher altitude than Denali, Denali is actually a bigger mountain.

Then again, everything is bigger in Alaska, right? ;)

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David RathbunDavid Rathbun is a business intelligence architect for a Fortune 100 company, founder of the online community known as BOB, SAP Mentor, blogger, full-time father to two wonderful boys, husband to a wife of 25+ years, and in his spare time he likes to do photography. His last five minutes of spare time occurred approximately ten years ago. Any opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect his employer. www.dagira.com
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Data Analysts And Scientists More Important Than Ever For The Enterprise

Daniel Newman

The business world is now firmly in the age of data. Not that data wasn’t relevant before; it was just nowhere close to the speed and volume that’s available to us today. Businesses are buckling under the deluge of petabytes, exabytes, and zettabytes. Within these bytes lie valuable information on customer behavior, key business insights, and revenue generation. However, all that data is practically useless for businesses without the ability to identify the right data. Plus, if they don’t have the talent and resources to capture the right data, organize it, dissect it, draw actionable insights from it and, finally, deliver those insights in a meaningful way, their data initiatives will fail.

Rise of the CDO

Companies of all sizes can easily find themselves drowning in data generated from websites, landing pages, social streams, emails, text messages, and many other sources. Additionally, there is data in their own repositories. With so much data at their disposal, companies are under mounting pressure to utilize it to generate insights. These insights are critical because they can (and should) drive the overall business strategy and help companies make better business decisions. To leverage the power of data analytics, businesses need more “top-management muscle” specialized in the field of data science. This specialized field has lead to the creation of roles like Chief Data Officer (CDO).

In addition, with more companies undertaking digital transformations, there’s greater impetus for the C-suite to make data-driven decisions. The CDO helps make data-driven decisions and also develops a digital business strategy around those decisions. As data grows at an unstoppable rate, becoming an inseparable part of key business functions, we will see the CDO act as a bridge between other C-suite execs.

Data skills an emerging business necessity

So far, only large enterprises with bigger data mining and management needs maintain in-house solutions. These in-house teams and technologies handle the growing sets of diverse and dispersed data. Others work with third-party service providers to develop and execute their big data strategies.

As the amount of data grows, the need to mine it for insights becomes a key business requirement. For both large and small businesses, data-centric roles will experience endless upward mobility. These roles include data anlysts and scientists. There is going to be a huge opportunity for critical thinkers to turn their analytical skills into rapidly growing roles in the field of data science. In fact, data skills are now a prized qualification for titles like IT project managers and computer systems analysts.

Forbes cited the McKinsey Global Institute’s prediction that by 2018 there could be a massive shortage of data-skilled professionals. This indicates a disruption at the demand-supply level with the needs for data skills at an all-time high. With an increasing number of companies adopting big data strategies, salaries for data jobs are going through the roof. This is turning the position into a highly coveted one.

According to Harvard Professor Gary King, “There is a big data revolution. The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.” The big problem is that most enterprises don’t know what to do with data. Data professionals are helping businesses figure that out. So if you’re casting about for where to apply your skills and want to take advantage of one of the best career paths in the job market today, focus on data science.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

For more insight on our increasingly connected future, see The $19 Trillion Question: Are You Undervaluing The Internet Of Things?

The post Data Analysts and Scientists More Important Than Ever For the Enterprise appeared first on Millennial CEO.

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About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

When Good Is Good Enough: Guiding Business Users On BI Practices

Ina Felsheim

Image_part2-300x200In Part One of this blog series, I talked about changing your IT culture to better support self-service BI and data discovery. Absolutely essential. However, your work is not done!

Self-service BI and data discovery will drive the number of users using the BI solutions to rapidly expand. Yet all of these more casual users will not be well versed in BI and visualization best practices.

When your user base rapidly expands to more casual users, you need to help educate them on what is important. For example, one IT manager told me that his casual BI users were making visualizations with very difficult-to-read charts and customizing color palettes to incredible degrees.

I had a similar experience when I was a technical writer. One of our lead writers was so concerned with readability of every sentence that he was going through the 300+ page manuals (yes, they were printed then) and manually adjusting all of the line breaks and page breaks. (!) Yes, readability was incrementally improved. But now any number of changes–technical capabilities, edits, inserting larger graphics—required re-adjusting all of those manual “optimizations.” The time it took just to do the additional optimization was incredible, much less the maintenance of these optimizations! Meanwhile, the technical writing team was falling behind on new deliverables.

The same scenario applies to your new casual BI users. This new group needs guidance to help them focus on the highest value practices:

  • Customization of color and appearance of visualizations: When is this customization necessary for a management deliverable, versus indulging an OCD tendency? I too have to stop myself from obsessing about the font, line spacing, and that a certain blue is just a bit different than another shade of blue. Yes, these options do matter. But help these casual users determine when that time is well spent.
  • Proper visualizations: When is a spinning 3D pie chart necessary to grab someone’s attention? BI professionals would firmly say “NEVER!” But these casual users do not have a lot of depth on BI best practices. Give them a few simple guidelines as to when “flash” needs to subsume understanding. Consider offering a monthly one-hour Lunch and Learn that shows them how to create impactful, polished visuals. Understanding if their visualizations are going to be viewed casually on the way to a meeting, or dissected at a laptop, also helps determine how much time to spend optimizing a visualization. No, you can’t just mandate that they all read Tufte.
  • Predictive: Provide advanced analytics capabilities like forecasting and regression directly in their casual BI tools. Using these capabilities will really help them wow their audience with substance instead of flash.
  • Feature requests: Make sure you understand the motivation and business value behind some of the casual users’ requests. These casual users are less likely to understand the implications of supporting specific requests across an enterprise, so make sure you are collaborating on use cases and priorities for substantive requests.

By working with your casual BI users on the above points, you will be able to collectively understand when the absolute exact request is critical (and supports good visualization practices), and when it is an “optimization” that may impact productivity. In many cases, “good” is good enough for the fast turnaround of data discovery.

Next week, I’ll wrap this series up with hints on getting your casual users to embrace the “we” not “me” mentality.

Read Part One of this series: Changing The IT Culture For Self-Service BI Success.

Follow me on Twitter: @InaSAP

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Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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Culture: More Than Just An HR Thing

Shane Green

“Company culture shapes every minute of the workday and every decision that is made.” -Taylor Smith, CEO & Cofounder of Blueboard.

What is culture? I consider it the collective mindset and attitude of your employees about what they do, which manifests itself in how they do things—in other words, their actions and behaviors. These behaviors manifest themselves in their interactions with your company, your customers, and other associates or staff.

This mindset—the one your staff brings to work every day—determines how they will take care of your customers, how much effort they will put into their work, and whether or not they will stay with you long-term.

The mindset and attitude of your employees plays a significant role in how they will perform at work. How someone feels about coming to work affects his or her energy levels and cognitive abilities. The impact of a negative culture is tremendous. It can lead to poor customer interactions, high turnover, underperforming staff, and in turn, reduced profits. Depending on the size of your company, the cost could be thousands, millions, or even billions of dollars.

The research is clear across industries: When your employees are more positive, your company is more productive and profitable. According to a Gallup study from 2012, organizations with engaged employees are:

  • 10% more customer service-oriented
  • 21% more productive
  • 22% more profitable

When you consider the numbers, culture is the most important consideration in business today. And as a result, we should reconsider the position and idea that culture is only the responsibility of your human resources team. Culture must be the focus and responsibility of every executive, owner, and manager in your company.

I often hear owners, executives, and managers argue against investing in their staff. Here are a few of the arguments I hear most frequently:

  • We need to remain focused on our customers and their experience. After all, we are in the customer experience economy. While customers are important, I would argue that we are in the employee experience economy. The talent war is over—talent won, and as a result, if we do not take care of our best and brightest people, another company will. And if you take care of your employees and they feel good about who they work for and what they do, they will naturally take care of your customers anyway.
  • Employees (especially young ones) don’t work hard anyway, so why give them more? The reality is this generation, just like previous generations, have the capacity to work very hard; it’s just that the new generation of workers don’t see the value in investing in a business that doesn’t invest in them.
  • The employees will just leave anyway. To this I say: maybe they will, but if you want any chance to keep your best and brightest, you need to provide them a better employee experience than they received in the past.

If you are focused on profits and productivity (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), then you must be willing to deliver a better employee experience to positively impact the mindset and attitude of your people coming to work. Culture is the most important thing in business today, so every owner, executive, and manager must keep it front and center in everything they do.

Remember what author Stephen Covey said: “The main thing is to keep your main thing the main thing.” Make culture your main thing.

Additional resources

Photo Credit: Françoise Challard Flickr via Compfight cc

 

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