The Holy Grail of Analytics is the Value between Data and Insight

After living and breathing the world of analytics and data for 20 years, I can let you in on a little secret of how successful customers achieve business value -- It does not come from the tool, but from the data.  It’s about the data.  It always has been. Maybe the reason many organizations don’t start with the data is frankly, data is the hardest part. The data is distributed, on-premise, in the cloud, messy, unwieldy and never stops pouring in.

At Pentaho, we have always known that the only way to reach true analytic insights is to solve the data challenge with an end-to-end platform that addresses the complete data workflow. That’s a tough trick to pull off—especially when the complete problem to solve gets obfuscated by a crowded market of BI tools.  You need to think about things like governance and security in both a big data world and a traditional Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) world.  And did I mention at scale? That kind of power in an end user “BI tool” is frankly unheard of.  Most vendors take the approach of solving for the less complex and user intuitive “front end” tools to explore already cleaned and prepared data. On the other side of the technology landscape there are heavy duty, complex tools that allow organizations to build disparate EDW’s and Data Lakes and then spoon-feed the data out to individual users. 

There is a huge gap between the technology landscapes of front-end BI tools and complex data integration tools. In this space, it is important to address the questions, “How do you make sure the data once prepared and delivered, remains well-governed as it is updated and manipulated by different sets of users? How do I keep things in check while I bring in more and varied data sources?  How do I know who is accessing what and when?” This is where the true business value comes to life.

The fundamental problem is the huge white space between the two sets of technologies, which not only creates a product gap, but an organization and process gap. This has been a long running problem. As the market tries to solve for “self-service” on the analytics side, the complexity and speed of the data prevents timely iterations between IT and the business to maintain the integrity of the data. The luxury of time to deliver across the white space has disappeared.  Business value is sacrificed as organizations struggle to keep up particularly in a multi-data source and high velocity data environment.

What to do?  When Pentaho started as an open source platform vendor, we knew that the only way for companies to tackle the white space gap and get to real insights was to provide powerful data integration and analytics in a single platform. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. When big data entered the scene seven years ago Pentaho could not have been better positioned. To brag a little, Pentaho was actually the first analytics vendor to announce support for Hadoop in May 2010. We understood not only the need for an end-to-end platform, but also the importance of the big data open source ecosystem. The neat and organized world of the EDW was surrounded by an ugly set of early technology with no tools or resources to address the challenges.  Attaching data discovery tools to this messy big data world just doesn’t work. Applying old school ideas about EDW management to data lakes also doesn’t work. But, if you have a platform that closes the white space and is agile enough to live in both the new world of open source emerging technology and the traditional--you have hit the holy grail!  Tracking data through to insights, embedding analytics in applications, instead of thinking about “BI tools” means real and quantifiable long-term business value. Like it has for customers such as Lockheed Martin’s Beontra, Opower, and NASDAQ.  

The world of Analytics cannot be summed up as just BI and Analytics tools in our book. It’s about the value you find between data and insight. And if you think it’s hard now managing multiple tools and technologies, just wait until IoT data hits. But, it’s manageable and the value is achievable. Pentaho customers are already achieving business return, such as Caterpillar Marine, IMS and BT.  Our bet at Pentaho is that although it may be complex, hard, messy and just frankly ugly sometimes, an end-to-end big data and analytics platform closes the gap and reduces time to business value. The real goal of analytics. 

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