Next up: Business Intelligence as a Service

Posted on : 27-02-2014 | By : admin | In : Innovation


In recent years many companies have been tackling the subject of Business Intelligence (BI) or data analytics. Indeed, extracting value of information from the masses of data both within the walls of an organisation, or through external channels such as Social Media networks, and using it to drive competitive advantage has been top of the CIO agenda.

At the back end parallel processing level, big data companies like Hadoop and Cloudera and have seen phenomenal growth, whilst data visualisation products such as Qlikview and Tableau have also done well in the BI space.

Indeed, it is estimated that the market for BI this year is already worth some $85.9bn (combining both software and the associated services/consultancy). This is expected to grow in the double digits per year for near term, driven both by the thirst for more information and the ease of deployment for BI analytical tools. This has been assisted by the ease of deployment with data governance now transitioning from the controlled centre (slow) to the business users at the “organisational fringes” (often independent of IT).

So, it is a natural evolution that BI applications would transition to cloud based applications or “…as a Service” models. The current market for cloud BI may be relatively small, but we predict that this will be a major area of growth in the coming period. Cloud models have been driven by relatively simple business benefits – cheaper and faster – and the same is true of BI services.

With more and more of data physical residency shifting from within the organisational perimeter to cloud service providers, the move is somewhat inevitable. However, it is of course not without challenges (you can lower your hands security officers…).

For a long time IT organisations have sought to control data access (and for good reasons). However, a whole set of new challenges will include:

  • “Silo’ing” – data being fragmented between internal and external. Creating a schema and process which transverses the boundary.
  • Governance – how can we manage a fragmented model with often many service providers?
  • Security – with data residency moving to the cloud the control and access raises a whole new problem, whether in transit or at rest (there are a whole bunch of new technology providers addressing this).

That said, we see these as being just another obstacle in the cloud journey which will form a small blip in the road.

So, what next? Well the whole cloud BI (and “Data as a Service”) brings many opportunities for organisations to unburden themselves from the complexity of the underlying infrastructure and distribution mechanisms, and focus on driving business value. This is where the smart players will look to partner, purchase or contract their existing providers to deliver the tools into the hand of the business users.

We’ve seen some moves already in this area. Back in early 2012 we were speaking with some of the big data centre service providers about the possibilities of providing Data as a Service, specifically in the Investment Management area. It seemed a natural choice to move this away from the internal complexity and deal with the consistency, transformation and interfacing at a service level. Seems as though others thought the same, with Markit purchasing the dominant player in this space, Cadis, in that very summer.

However, the ability to take this and source (or combine) is with the visualisation layer into BI as a Service (not just Saas based BI), is something that as yet isn’t yet matured. We think this could bring enormous benefits to the business end user community, with not only the ease of use but also the ability for providers to combine data and BI with pre-packaged algorithms, dashboards, KPI’s, decision support and the like.

An opportunity for someone – let’s see what develops.¬†



The upwardly mobile CIO

Posted on : 27-02-2014 | By : richard.gale | In : Innovation

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Back in 2011 we discussed the challenges to progression of CIOs and changes they could make to move up to CEO level. After reading a great article in Information Age magazine on Richard Lloyd-Williams (CTO at Net-A-Porter) we thought it would a good time to revisit the subject.

The essence of the article is that the successful implementation of the right technology is integral to Net-A-Porter’s success “if the website is down we have no money” says Lloyd-Williams. The CIO and IT push innovation, keep the engine running and the transactions flowing. Richard’s predecessor went on to become CEO of so we can watch and see how they progress.

Net-A-Porter is a classic internet company – a great idea (selling high end fashion clothing) utilising slick branding and innovative technology. So can the same approach be used by other ‘non tech’ organisations? We think the answer is a yes but it requires certain changes in behaviour and outlook by the CIO and IT teams generally.

Business Orientated viewpoint

This is obvious and most CIOs have a deep understanding of the business they work within. The additional piece that needs to be added is getting into the mindset of the CEO or Sales Director to understand and fully comprehend their viewpoint and drivers. This is a difficult challenge, to move away from the value add, cost focused, efficiency mode to true strategic thinking about the direction of the company and the path to achieve that success. A way to do this is for the CIO to be included and an active part of strategic planning and ALSO the execution of this which will involve extensive time alongside the CEO and senior team. A seat on the board of the organisation is a good starting point for this to begin.

Integration of IT into the business

Again we have seen this add so much value to a firm. It may not be the most obviously cost effective mechanism as local, expensive, business savvy people generally command a premium but the speed and quality of the solutions can easily outweigh the obvious costs. There has been a trend to move IT and specifically development away from the business to lower cost ‘factories’ of production. This may achieve headline cost savings but we question the overall benefit to the business. What needs to be catered for is ensuring a degree of standardisation (in architecture, documentation and supportability amongst other things) in the solutions delivered to avoid overlap, gaps and ‘instant legacy’ systems that cannot be sustained long term. Net-A-Porter manages this by having a common service orientated architecture that the business units plug in to.

Small, nimble teams

This is really part of integrating IT into the business. Small teams that can work with the business, and get a deep understanding of what the business want and can deliver on that vision quickly and completely. This agile approach and it really does work and also should be flexible enough to cope with the inevitable changes of direction as the business and market changes. Less than double figures is a good size for a team that can work closely together, have great communication whilst having the breadth to have expertise in the areas required to deliver successfully.

Empowerment & devolved responsibility

Providing support and direction to your teams whilst giving them enough scope to make decisions and backing them up where needed is a difficult but necessary attribute. As most CIOs have come from an IT background there is a certain level of ‘baggage’. This is usually a very positive aspect as it is required to help make intelligent, experienced based decisions but can be something of a double edged sword as diving into the detail of an issue can be too easy. Trusting, supporting and letting the team make their own decisions empowers and motivates your resources as they feel accountable for the successful outcome.

Continuous, iterative delivery

Large projects with big steps of delivery are sometimes necessary. Most of the time, though, a big project can be broken down into smaller parts with discernible business benefits drives momentum and keeps the team – both business and IT motivated. The ‘every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’ statement rings true in IT as it does for life.


I started this blog with the aim of showing how successful CIO’s can step up to the next level with the right skills and mindset. This has morphed into our thinking in regard to a good model to deliver IT projects. The points above are truisms, but ones that we’ve seen make teams and individuals successful time and time again.