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Howard Dresner aims to separate BI myth from reality

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BI is not dead, says Howard Dresner -- but machine learning? It's definitely overhyped. He explains why and talks about his upcoming Real BI Conference in this SearchCIO podcast.

Howard Dresner, widely credited with coining the term BI, has some advice for companies determined to take their business intelligence programs to the next level: Consider the source. Dresner is founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services LLC in Nashua, N.H. He believes a lot of the hype around technologies such as machine learning should be taken with a big grain of salt.

Dresner, who is hosting the Real Business Intelligence Conference in Cambridge, Mass., on July 11 and 12, sat down with SearchCIO to talk about how the BI market has matured, what BI myths need busting and metrics that address the perennial problem of getting IT and the business on the same page. Below are excerpts from the interview; click on the player to hear my interview with Howard Dresner in its entirety.

How has the BI market changed over the past five years?

Dresner: There's more of a focus on the users of the technology. And there are lots of products -- more visual products -- that have evolved or emerged to satisfy that particular need. [There's been] sort of [a] disintermediation away from IT, with the users either subscribing to services or downloadable products that they can buy with their Visa cards and start using right away.

What BI technologies have matured the most in the last five years?

Dresner: What's mature? Dashboards, reporting, data warehousing [are] very mature. Even visualization, basic viz [visualization] capabilities, have matured. Location intelligence has matured. And even things like big data, which was tremendously overhyped for a number of years, has really started to settle down and mature, not only in terms of the functionality and reliability of the underlying technology, but in terms of available resources that understand how to manage these environments.

What technologies still have some maturing to do?

The Real BI Conference at a glance

Howard Dresner is hosting the Real BI Conference in Cambridge, Mass., in July.Howard Dresner


When: July 11 and July 12
Where: Tang Center at MIT
More info: RealBusinessIntelligence.com
On why it's called the Real BI Conference: "Real business intelligence is about what matters. So, what's most relevant, what's most real and where people's energy, attention and investment should be focused in order to be more successful." -- Howard Dresner 

Dresner: In terms of hype, I'd have to point to things like data science and machine learning. Not because this is new technology -- it's not -- but it's the next thing. We were beating the big data drum for a long time, and people have absorbed that; they're educated now. They understand what it is. And, in many cases, they understand where to deploy it or if to deploy it. Now, along come things like machine learning, as well as other things like what we call natural language analytics. It's the latest buzz in the marketplace.  

You're hosting the Real BI Conference in July, and you've said one of things you'll be looking to do is dispel some BI myths. What myths need to be quashed?

Dresner: One is this notion that business intelligence and data warehousing and centers of excellence or competency centers are all dead. You know, that's the old stuff. The pundits out there a couple of years ago were saying, 'Oh, no, that's where you need to invest.' And now they're saying, 'No. Throw that all out and start new.' And that's ridiculous. It's wrongminded.

How do businesses change productivity or operational metrics so that they're better aligned with the business?

Dresner: We need to not view success with BI based on system or application activity or just raw numbers of deployed users. Instead, we need to measure success based on user and customer feedback, and even things like return on investment, which is not always the best measure, but sometimes it's all we have. 

Next Steps

Howard Dresner on mobile BI

Howard Dresner on cloud BI

Howard Dresner on performance management trends

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