Fit For Purpose

Before sitting down to write my first blog entry, I naturally had to make myself a coffee. In doing so, realised I did not have a clean teaspoon to stir the sugar and reached for a knife instead. Did it do the job? In a crude kind of way, Yes. However, the act of using a tool designed for cutting to stir my coffee has left scratches on the bottom of my Babushka mug – not entirely an optimal outcome.

It got me thinking – Business Analytics technology is a lot like my drawer of utensils in that there are a range of tools each designed with a different job in mind. There may even be one tool which can crudely do it all. However, selecting the technology that is fit for purpose is crucial to achieving the best outcome.

It’s for this reason, after 10 years of taking information off desktops and moving it into the secure, manageable servers of the Enterprise, we are now putting Analytics back in the hands of the Employees. Only this time, we are providing the platform and processes needed to ensure a path to Enterprise security and manageability should the information become business critical.

IBM is leading the charge for Personal Analytics with the recently launched IBM Cognos Insight. Cognos Insight puts Analytics at the fingertips of everyone in the organisation – allowing individuals to derive insight from information sitting on their Desktop. This means they can get the answers they need quickly and easily without having to wait for an IT department to design structures and load data into an Enterprise data store. Using a neat desktop application, you can drag an existing Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into the workspace and instantly have access to analytical structures and dashboards that are automatically created for you. You can build on these to add your own charts, filters, and even conduct basic what-if analysis, all within the confines of your own desktop.

IBM Cognos Insight

But here’s the important point.

Over the past 10 years I’ve had many conversations with IT departments about Microsoft Excel, in particular about spreadsheets that were created by an individual, shared with a team, contributed to, grown, and grown, and grown, and shared with more teams, until it was at a point where the information and “application” had become so critical to running the business that the IT department were falling over themselves trying to give Excel the Enterprise-grade security and availability it now needed – a near impossibility!

Thanks to IBM Cognos Insight, the conversation has become a whole lot easier.

“Oh, your personal application for analytics and insight is now business critical and you need us to manage it? Sure, right-click and select Publish!”

Ok, so maybe there are a few additional steps required, but essentially this is the process. When personal analytics becomes team analytics, or corporate analytics, or business analytics, you can simply Publish the application to the Cognos Enterprise platform to provide the security, manageability, scalability and group-contribution of an Enterprise analytical application. Behind the scenes, the platform is publishing data structures to the Cognos TM1 Server and can even publish the personal dashbards and charts to the Cognos Business Intelligence platform. This is geek speak for instead of running your analytics on your own desktop, you can access the same application via the Web along with the rest of your team.

My advice to IBMers and customers alike is don’t take my word for it – download it and see for yourselves. There’s a fantastic site http://www.analyticszone.com where both IBM and our community have uploaded their own personal analytical applications to both get you started and to share the love. They range from a great starting point for any business, to more light-hearted applications for football fanatics.

Either way, it’s time to get personal!