What's All the Excitement Around Analytics?  

By Rob Karel, VP Product Strategy and Marketing, Informatica Corporation   
imageWhat’s The Big Deal? 
For decades, organizations across the globe invested billions of dollars in business intelligence (BI), reporting and data analysis technologies in order to better understand their business. Unfortunately, even after all of this investment, senior leadership at most companies admit they don’t trust their information, and worse, have poor visibility into their operations, customers, supply chain, and partner ecosystems.   
A lack of visibility or trust in enterprise information creates significant risk in a number of ways including the inability to ensure regulatory compliance, lack of insight into operational inefficiencies, and of course bad decisions based on incomplete or untrustworthy data leading to bad business outcomes. 
So if BI and analytics have been around for such a long time, why all of a sudden is everyone talking about analytics as if it’s the next big thing?  
The Megatrends 
The catalyst for all the revived analytics hype and excitement is the convergence of four independent, but related technology megatrends that have emerged in the past decade: cloud computing, social networking, mobile devices and big data. From a data management perspective, these four megatrends are changing all the rules of both how data is managed and what data is considered relevant to an organization.    
Both cloud and mobile force a breakdown in the traditional IT Governance presumption that all critical data is captured, managed, and consumed within your organizational firewall. Now critical enterprise information is being captured, stored, managed, and consumed outside of your IT’s core infrastructure in cloud-based applications (e.g., salesforce.com and Workday) and on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and embedded chips within smart devices built into cars, utility meters and myriad emerging technologies that comprise the ever-expanding “internet of things”. 
To add to the complexity, the emergence of social networks like Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and others change what type of information is available. Instead of just analyzing traditional transactional data highlighting direct touch points between your organization and its customers in enterprise applications such as ERP or CRM, social networks provide interaction and relationship data between your customers and their friends and other influencers. And they’re talking about your company, products, services and other interests that provide a gold mine of data about consumer opinions and behaviors. Capturing and analyzing this information can provide invaluable insights to shape how you should best engage with your customer to provide an optimal experience. 
Finally, big data is likely the most hyped and least understood of them all. But big data is the core trend that has reignited the most excitement around analytics. In a nutshell, big data is simply the advancement of data management and analytics best practices and technology that allow organizations to harness and gain competitive insights from the huge volumes of data coming in from all of these new sources of information and marrying this new data with your traditional data, no matter how that information is structured or how often it is updated or refreshed. The survey graphic shows how big data is the most impactful of the megatrends to data governance efforts, but in reality social, mobile and cloud activity really drive quite a bit of the interest in big data.
Why Should Business Analysts Care? 
What role do you, the experienced business analyst, play in this transformation? As always, you are the strategic liaison between business and IT. You have that specialized ability to discuss business process improvements and value metrics to business leaders in the morning, while documenting functional requirements and outlining user experience expectations for IT in the afternoon.    
One of the most common and consistent root causes of BI adoption failure over the years has been business user’s lack of trust and confidence in the data shared in the resulting reports and analysis. Why? Too often IT drives and delivers reporting capabilities without consideration for the business’ data quality and standardization requirements. “If we build it, they will come” just doesn’t work here.  Seasoned business analysts, playing the role of data stewards, must leverage their interpersonal, facilitation, project management and communication skills to drive data standards, capture business requirements, and aid in the scoping and prioritization of which data from which sources of information are most relevant to optimize the most critical business processes, decisions and stakeholder interactions.   
Here’s why business analysts should want to participate in these data- and analytics-centric initiatives:  Companies no longer differentiate on the quality of their products or services. And process automation helps to manage bottom line costs and create efficiencies, yet doesn’t drive market differentiation. But organizations with access to the most current, trusted and differentiated information and insight will be the market leaders with the most loyal customers in the decades to come. 
For additional best practices on how you can influence your organization’s information management strategies, join the Potential at Work for Information Leaders community.