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Expert Interview: BARC Analyst Dr. Carsten Bange on Better BI

Dr. Carsten Bange (@carstenbange) is one of the leading market analysts for analytics and data management in Europe and the founder of BARC. We recently checked in with Dr. Bange to get his insight on Big Data analytics trends, including business intelligence, or BI. Here’s what he shared:

How has BI evolved since you started your career? 

In the 1990s BI was not even called BI, and from a technology perspective reporting and data analysis happened either on mainframes or on desktop PCs. That has obviously changed, even though it seems like the same tool, functionality has been developed again and again on new technology (client-server, web, mobile, cloud) without real advances for the user.

From a business perspective, the usage of BI and data has become much more strategic. It used to be more of an afterthought, and data treated like the waste of the operational processes. Today, we are discussing advanced analytics, operationalization of BI, as well as analytics and data-based business models that really have an impact on profit and loss, and not just to inform people.

What do you think would surprise most organizations about the data they’re collecting? 

Organizations are still surprised how low the quality of data really is for many use cases outside the environment the data was originally collected for or in.

Also, while it is often fairly easy to find data, it is surprising how hard it can be to find or assign a data owner.

Related: Extracting Value from Big Data: The Hidden Challenge for Marketers

What should organizations be doing to better harness the data they’re gathering? 

Data can be better harnessed by combining it with other internal or external data; by cleansing and enriching it, by cataloguing it as a simple form of metadata management, generally by making it more accessible, e.g. through data marketplaces or people that help their colleagues to use data.

What are the most outdated BI tools or methodologies that you see organizations still using? Why should these organizations upgrade? 

We see still organizations that are stuck on just reporting data in non-flexible reports. Giving users more possibilities to do ad hoc analysis and visualize data is a possibility to start a journey to more fact-based decision making and deriving more value from data in steering processes, people and resources.

What considerations should an organization make when purchasing BI tools? What types of questions should they ask before settling on a product? 

It is good to start with the actual requirements that can often be bundled in groups of similar users. Thinking about types of users (power users, information consumers, etc.) and their respective requirements in functionality and technology today and tomorrow helps a lot. Since many users just demand what they have today or do not know about the potential of modern tools and approaches it is also important to educate them to spark their creativity about how data and analysis could also bring value to them in new ways.

How can organizations ensure they’re getting the most out of their BI tools? 

Frequent training for users gets more important since the software release cycles have shortened, in software-as-a-service solutions sometimes down to one to two months.

Also, the organizational approach to ensure agility (the speed to implement changes) is typically one of the most important concerns for users.

How can organizations use big data to protect their digital assets? 

Detection of cyber security threats is based on the ability to identify changing usage patterns, to execute complex analysis rapidly (close to real time), and to run complex analysis across a variety of data, ranging from network events to system logs and concrete user access to systems and data. This requires both advanced analytics, beyond simple rule-based approaches, and the ability to run analysis on large amounts of current and historical data – Big Data.

What are the biggest cyber security threats to businesses today? 

Our recent Big Data Security Analytics Survey has shown that two-thirds of the respondents have experienced significant security threats over the past year. Manufacturing is hereby the sector that has experienced highest increase. The biggest concerns of organizations are attacks on manufacturing environments, leakage of customer data, theft of informational assets and blackmailing.

What are the most important/interesting trends you’re following in BI today? Why? 

The empowerment of employees in business departments with self-service BI and visual analysis tools is an ongoing trend. As demand for self-service continues to rise, tools for exploration of data (“data discovery”) and machine learning to create and deploy models are becoming easier and easier to use. Placing data and analytics at the core of new business models that allow for monetization of data and new competitive differentiators will make this space an exciting one to be in for many years to come.

For more on how to efficiently deliver all critical enterprise data assets with the highest integrity to next-generation Big Data environments for trusted, actionable business insights, see Syncsort’s Big Data Integration solutions.

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