On Day Two of the Gartner BI Summit, Analysts Call for 'More Synthesis'

LAS VEGAS, NV—The merging of centralized and decentralized business intelligence (BI) ecosystems was a key theme once more on day two of the Gartner BI Summit Tuesday. Analyst Frank Buytendijk opened his keynote presentation with the claim that across IT departments, analysts tend to "analyze too much and synthesize too little." He identified the three primary types of analysis in BI—variance analysis, root cause analysis, and trend analysis—but pointed out that there are shortcomings in all of these, and synthesis must "fill the gap" when data is absent and data dilemmas exist.

When there is ambiguity or a lack of data, he explained, synthesis can help analysts piece together a logical perspective and develop an understanding of the available data that can be deeper and more meaningful than what can be achieved through analysis alone.

Synthesis is also the primary means of bringing together centralized and decentralized BI, Buytendijk said. To get started, those in the BI space have to "get away from the tyranny of 'or' and embrace the genius of 'and,'" he urged. By becoming more flexible, BI professionals can marry centralized and decentralized elements. The key, he explained, is to define strategy and determine where the company is now, where it wants to be, and how it's going to get there. Once the strategy is defined, companies have to create a disturbance in their processes to "challenge the norm" as a means to attaining synthesis and delivering on the strategy. "Creating a disturbance in a tedious process creates focus," he said.

Throughout the conference, analysts insisted that it is time for BI experts to be more proactive and become change agents who introduce and eventually institute new ideas and business approaches. According to analyst Alan Duncan, the skill sets required for being a data analyst have evolved, and the position calls for more agility and ingenuity than ever. Now, "storytelling is the true art of data analytics," he said, insisting that modern business intelligence teams are responsible for enabling their front-line counterparts to be more agile and adaptable as well.

Analyst Tina Nunno's presentation also pointed to the growing pressure on business intelligence teams, and highlighted the criticism that business intelligence departments commonly face. Nunno's presentation alluded to a number of Machiavellian concepts, and suggested that CIOs should "go on the offensive" because "IT is increasingly under attack," she said. For example, other departments across organizations often accuse IT of being too expensive, too slow, and not innovative. There's also the growing belief that IT should not just be left to IT and that it should be a shared responsibility. To offer advice on how to tackle these and other gripes, Nunno quoted Machiavelli: "Men generally decide upon a middle course, which is most hazardous; for they know neither how to be entirely good or entirely bad," she 

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