IBM Business Analytics at the Gartner BI Summit 2011

It’s that time of the year! The annual Gartner BI Summit is just around the corner. This year’s edition will take place from January 31st through February 1st at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London.

IBM is one of the main sponsors for this event, and my team and I will be quite busy during those days. We have planned some great activities to connect with our customers, partners and friends. There will be a big booth at the conference where we can meet. Some of our most knowledgeable resources will there. We are really excited to show our Cognos 10 platform. Here is a quick pre-view of some IBM Cognos related activities that might be of interest for you:

Monday, January 31st:

  • 08:30 – 10:30: The traditional Gartner keynotes should not be missed.
  • 11:45 – 12:30: Panel discussion – Peter Griffiths, our VP for Business Analytics development will participate. I love those panel discussions
  • 12:45 – 13:45: ‘Preparing a BI Strategy’ workshop hosted by @tracyleeharris
  • 14:00 – 16:00: ‘Best Practices in Rolling Forecasts‘ workshop….hosted by me. This is a great workshop for all people interested in finance processes.
  • 16:15 – 17:15: ‘Demonstrating Value’ workshop hosted by @tracyleeharris

Tuesday, February 1st:

  • 10:30 – 11:15: ‘Navigating Politics & Culture’ workshop hosted by @tracyleeharris
  • 11:30 – 12:00: Our keynote ‘Smarter decisions, better results’. Leah Macmillan will be delivering this presentation and I have the honor to demo our cool Cognos 10 platform.
  • 12:00 – 13:00: ‘Organizing for Success & Building a BICC’ hosted by @tracyleeharris

I have pasted the detailed descriptions of the workshops on the bottom of this post. We have limited space in all of these. So, please visit us at the booth early enough to sign up.

You might have noticed that my colleague Tracy Harris will be quite busy at the conference. She actually released a neat book towards the end of 2010. We will have plenty of copies for you at our booth.  If you want, you can also download a copy for free before the conference. Tracy will be spending a lot of time at our booth….so get your questions ready!

That’s it for now. Looking forward to seeing everybody at the conference. Drop me a note if you want to meet.

Workshop Descriptions

Best Practices in Rolling Forecasts Workshop
This workshop is a highly practical one where our team will share key insights on designing, implementing and using rolling forecasts as part of a best practice performance management process. You will find out whether rolling forecasts are right for your organisation, what the best time horizon would be, and how rolling forecasts can alert you to emerging threats and opportunities.  Discuss the relevance of forecasting, review best practices for implementing a rolling forecast, and identify how you can improve the forecasting process

Demonstrating Value Workshop
What kind of ROI do organisations see from BI and PM deployments? How do I
demonstrate the value of my investment? In this session, learn about building your
value portfolio for a strategic BI and PM investment including demonstrating ROI,
justifying your strategy, demonstrating value and how to embrace, enhance and
extend your investments.

Navigating Politics and Culture Workshop
Having trouble extending your BI deployment? Gaining user adoption? Learn some of
the most common practices and pitfalls that organisations encounter as they
implement BI enterprise-wide. Find out how they gained executive buy-in, managed
change, gained adoption and showcased initiatives within their organisation. By
learning more about these pitfalls and how other organisations have overcome them,
you will be more prepared for success.

Organising for Success & Building a BI Center of Excellence Workshop
In order to be successful at a strategic business intelligence or performance
management initiative, you need to be properly organised to execute. Learn about
the value of a Business Intelligence Center of Excellence, and discuss functions and
structures of these organisations.

Preparing a Strategy Workshop
What are the sweet spots of information? What key elements do I need to consider
when building a strategy? What is my business alignment strategy, my organisational
and behavioural strategy and my technology strategy? In this workshop we will
discuss the key elements to consider when building a strategy and roadmap to help
your organisation become best-in-class using analytics.


Never trust a statistic?

Everybody hates and loves statistics. Right? If we can, we use statistics to obtain buy-in. Otherwise we might argue against them. They always say: “Never trust a statistic that you haven’t manipulated yourself.”

Regardless of what we think about statistics, we are constantly being bombarded by them. News, websites, TV, etc.. They are everywhere. In business we drown in metrics. In our personal lives we suffocate from mind-boggling numbers like deficits, deaths, cost and you name it. But there is a fundamental flaw with the way we communicate data points: They are often meaningless. Because we do not understand them. What’s a 23 billion USD deficit? Hmm…a lot of money. As much as I hate to quote a dictator, but there is truth in the words: Joseph Stalin apparently said: “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”

When we quote numbers we need to make sure that we put things into context. We need to make numbers more relevant for them to have impact.

In a future post, I will provide some tips for making data in reports & dashboards more relevant. Watch this inspiring yet frustrating performance by Chris Jordan to find out more about the blinding side of numbers:

Business Analytics and the art of cycling

Road biking is a big passion of mine. The other day I was out on a long training ride with a good friend. One of the nice things about biking is that you can talk a lot on those rides. Since we were talking about different aspects of our work, my friend finally wanted to know what was so special about this “Business Analytics stuff”. How do you best explain that to somebody who is only remotely connected to IT, Finance and management? Luckily, I had a great story to tell him. And it’s not just a regular story. It is actually my personal success story in cycling.

HIGH TECH

About a decade ago, modern technology entered the world of professional cycling. Smart technology became available to measure not only the typical parameters of cycling like speed, distance etc.. This new piece of technology was called a “Powermeter”. This high-tech gadget allowed cyclists to measure advanced data such as power output, pedal torque, cadence etc.. Today some of these devices even measure aerodynamic drag.  Powermeters help athletes like myself to learn about themselves and to perform better. Needless to say, I invested in this technology about five years ago. It is a CycleOps Powertap with Bluetooth technology.

THE ERP OF CYCLING

Ok. But what does that have to do with Business Analytics. Very easy. The Powermeter is my transactional system. It records my ‘business’ on the bike. Second by second. Mile by mile. While I am riding, I can check my speed, power output, cadence and many other things. Just like a good solid ERP system. The gadget allows me to manage the operational aspects of my ‘cycling business’, i.e. I can lower my power output, increase cadence etc..

ENTER ANALYTICS

After each ride, I can then download the ride data. There is an extremely awesome piece of software called WKO+. It was created by two smart cycling professionals that have conducted ground-breaking research. This application helps athletes analyze their ride data. The objective is to become smarter (think knowledge about your own body) and to make better decisions about your training. This is basically Business Analytics for cyclists. Let’s take a look at how this works.

THE DASHBOARD

After each ride, I can analyze a Dashboard. This dashboard provides me with an overview of my most important metrics such as power output, mileage, cadence, time in training zones, etc.. There is a daily and a monthly dashboard. This helps me identify potential issues and to check my overall performance and progress. In Business Analytics, we implement dashboards for our executives and managers. The only difference is that they look at different metrics like sales, margins, profits.

WKO+ dashboard
The cycling dashboard from WKO+

ANALYSIS

If I spot something curious, e.g. an unexpected poor performance on a ride, I can immediately drill down to analyze the detailed data from my ride. This analysis contains a detailed report of some metrics and I can visually analyze the ride second by second. Going through the data, I can spot interesting things like power spikes, rest periods etc.. This helps me put the overall picture together of why I performed in a certain way. The analysis also helps me learn more about myself: what are my boundaries, what are my strengths etc.. The same thing is true for Business Analytics. If we spot some problems or opportunities, we perform analysis using our rich transactional data. This helps us identify critical business insight.

WKO+ detailed ride analysis
The detailed analysis of the ride: power, altitude and more

LOOKING AHEAD

Now that I have understood how and why I performed on my bike I can start using this information to plan and adjust my upcoming training plan. There are some smart algorithms in the software that help predict future performance based on past power-output and training load. Using this inside, I can then fine-tune my training plan and hopefully scare my riding friends by outperforming. Many companies leverage Predictive Analytics to make sense of data and to look ahead. They want to identify customers that might be more profitable in the future. They might want to spot opportunities for cost savings. And they use the insights to formulate and update their business plans.

Planning ahead

THE ROI

My friend now understands clearly what Business Analytics is all about. Since I was able to seriously drop him on a climb he was curious about the ROI of this. Well, the technology has enabled me to learn a ton about myself. I know my boundaries and I am able to push myself much further than I ever have. I was able to survive a grueling 7 day stage race across the Alps and all that with a minimum of preparation. All that by being smart about my racing tactics and most importantly about my training approaches. The same thing is true for businesses. I have worked with companies that have literally transformed the way they do business using the insights offered by modern Business Analytics software. This software now represents the central nervous system of these organizations. Why don’t you try that yourself?

If you are interested in learning more about how I use a powermeter during training, please read my personal blog: