Is it Big Data or Lots of Smaller Data?

With analytics and data now being at the forefront of so much of what we do, BI is a fast-growing market and has experienced a massive growth in vendors. Some vendors have history back through the late ’80s and early ’90s, other no more than a couple of years, some with thousands of customers, some with no customers but big ideas and growth projections.

BI is a complex discipline, one that is vital to invest in if a company is to understand its market and its competitors. To look around at the marketplace, like many sectors, BI is caught up in jargon and buzzwords, much of which only serves to confuse those charged with making what is in most cases a serious investment for their business.

Big Data is a great example.

By definition, big data consists of “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.” There needs to be no discussion that there are many Customers at a Fortune 500 level who have massive data stores that are exploding exponentially every year and that for them the term big data is absolutely real.

However, if a vendor starts talking to you about big data, I would ask if they truly understand the market and what is important and relevant to you as a customer in 2016 and beyond. Having been involved in BI investments with literally hundreds of customers, globally of all sizes, I can tell you that if you are reading this, you are more likely to be worrying about lots of disparate data rather than Big Data.

If we focus on ERP customers as a sub-segment, then almost across the board they are more likely to be struggling with data from legacy systems, data from forecasting, data from online feeds like currencies, as well as data from their current ERP system.   Although in many cases all of this can add up to a reasonable amount of data, what is really the focus for these Users is the integration and alignment of many data sources, not the management of a single large one.

Examples of this Customer type are easy: a Customer with 20 years of legacy ERP data who requires the legacy data and the current ERP data to be reported on as one; a Customer with three external web feeds daily that requires this data to align to their current ERP and then create reports with calculated capability; a Customer with different instances of their current ERP solution, a Customer with Salesforce, an ERP with specialty third party logistics engine; and a Customer with global budgeting and forecasting solutions that are apart from their current ERP solution. This list can go on and on but is basically the story of most (if not all) ERP users. There seems to be a lot of data and in A LOT of places.

The BI road for ERP Customers has for a long time been a confusing one. There appears to be many vendors offering solutions that can apparently all do the job, and then there are the offers from others to build it all as “your” business “Mr. Customer” is so different. I wrote an article back in 2013 discussing how crazy it would be for a business to build its own ERP in 2013 and applied the same concept to BI. Here we are two years later, and more and more Customers are realizing that investing in consultants and tools when there are productized solutions already built to do what is needed is a massive risk to the business and to the executives who make those decisions.

After 30 to 40 years of the focus being on the implementation of ERP and the alignment of data processes as a result of this, we are entering an era where this is now changing to be all about the insights and all about the outcomes that management can use to better manage their business. In this incredibly competitive age for your business, BI may become a major differential between acceptable growth or not. The BI solution you invest in must be able to future-proof you across new versions of your ERP solution as well as support your need for more data, more analytics, and more Users as those who truly embrace data and BI will undoubtedly provide their business with the best chance of success.

To be successful in your endeavor’s you should ensure you focus on the data first, find productized solutions that can develop the data platform you need into structured and governed data stores, then the ability to connect that “Trusted” or “Intelligent” data store to self-service tools and corporate BI presentation layers is the easy piece.

Comments are closed.