Business intelligence

Analysis of companies, products, and user strategies in the area of business intelligence. Related subjects include:

March 26, 2017


A huge fraction of analytics is about monitoring. People rarely want to frame things in those terms; evidently they think “monitoring” sounds boring or uncool. One cost of that silence is that it’s hard to get good discussions going about how monitoring should be done. But I’m going to try anyway, yet again. :)

Business intelligence is largely about monitoring, and the same was true of predecessor technologies such as green paper reports or even pre-computer techniques. Two of the top uses of reporting technology can be squarely described as monitoring, namely:

Yes, monitoring-oriented BI needs investigative drilldown, or else it can be rather lame. Yes, purely investigative BI is very important too. But monitoring is still the heart of most BI desktop installations.

Predictive modeling is often about monitoring too. It is common to use statistics or machine learning to help you detect and diagnose problems, and many such applications have a strong monitoring element.

I.e., you’re predicting trouble before it happens, when there’s still time to head it off.

As for incident response, in areas such as security — any incident you respond to has to be noticed first Often, it’s noticed through analytic monitoring.

Hopefully, that’s enough of a reminder to establish the great importance of analytics-based monitoring. So how can the practice be improved? At least three ways come to mind, and only one of those three is getting enough current attention.

Read more

March 12, 2017

Introduction to SequoiaDB and SequoiaCM

For starters, let me say:


Unfortunately, SequoiaDB has not captured a lot of detailed information about unpaid open source production usage.

Read more

February 28, 2017

Coordination, the underused “C” word

I’d like to argue that a single frame can be used to view a lot of the issues that we think about. Specifically, I’m referring to coordination, which I think is a clearer way of characterizing much of what we commonly call communication or collaboration.

It’s easy to argue that computing, to an overwhelming extent, is really about communication. Most obviously:

Indeed, it’s reasonable to claim:

A little less obvious is the much of this communication could be alternatively described as coordination. Some communication has pure consumer value, such as when we talk/email/Facebook/Snapchat/FaceTime with loved ones. But much of the rest is for the purpose of coordinating business or technical processes.

Among the technical categories that boil down to coordination are:

That’s a lot of the value in “platform” IT right there.  Read more

October 21, 2016

Rapid analytics

“Real-time” technology excites people, and has for decades. Yet the actual, useful technology to meet “real-time” requirements remains immature, especially in cases which call for rapid human decision-making. Here are some notes on that conundrum.

1. I recently posted that “real-time” is getting real. But there are multiple technology challenges involved, including:

2. In early 2011, I coined the phrase investigative analytics, about which I said three main things: Read more

October 10, 2016

Notes on anomaly management

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken

— John Keats, “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”

1. In June I wrote about why anomaly management is hard. Well, not only is it hard to do; it’s hard to talk about as well. One reason, I think, is that it’s hard to define what an anomaly is. And that’s a structural problem, not just a semantic one — if something is well enough understood to be easily described, then how much of an anomaly is it after all?

Artificial intelligence is famously hard to define for similar reasons.

“Anomaly management” and similar terms are not yet in the software marketing mainstream, and may never be. But naming aside, the actual subject matter is important.

2. Anomaly analysis is clearly at the heart of several sectors, including:

Each of those areas features one or both of the frameworks:

So if you want to identify, understand, avert and/or remediate bad stuff, data anomalies are the first place to look.

3. The “insights” promised by many analytics vendors — especially those who sell to marketing departments — are also often heralded by anomalies. Already in the 1970s, Walmart observed that red clothing sold particularly well in Omaha, while orange flew off the shelves in Syracuse. And so, in large college towns, they stocked their stores to the gills with clothing in the colors of the local football team. They also noticed that fancy dresses for little girls sold especially well in Hispanic communities … specifically for girls at the age of First Communion.

Read more

September 6, 2016

“Real-time” is getting real

I’ve been an analyst for 35 years, and debates about “real-time” technology have run through my whole career. Some of those debates are by now pretty much settled. In particular:

A big issue that does remain open is: How fresh does data need to be? My preferred summary answer is: As fresh as is needed to support the best decision-making. I think that formulation starts with several advantages:

Straightforward applications of this principle include: Read more

August 28, 2016

Are analytic RDBMS and data warehouse appliances obsolete?

I used to spend most of my time — blogging and consulting alike — on data warehouse appliances and analytic DBMS. Now I’m barely involved with them. The most obvious reason is that there have been drastic changes in industry structure:

Simply reciting all that, however, begs the question of whether one should still care about analytic RDBMS at all.

My answer, in a nutshell, is:

Analytic RDBMS — whether on premises in software, in the form of data warehouse appliances, or in the cloud – are still great for hard-core business intelligence, where “hard-core” can refer to ad-hoc query complexity, reporting/dashboard concurrency, or both. But they aren’t good for much else.

Read more

July 19, 2016

Notes from a long trip, July 19, 2016

For starters:

A running list of recent posts is:

Subjects I’d like to add to that list include:

Read more

June 5, 2016

Challenges in anomaly management

As I observed yet again last week, much of analytics is concerned with anomaly detection, analysis and response. I don’t think anybody understands the full consequences of that fact,* but let’s start with some basics.

*me included

An anomaly, for our purposes, is a data point or more likely a data aggregate that is notably different from the trend or norm. If I may oversimplify, there are three kinds of anomalies:

Two major considerations are:

What I mean by the latter point is:

Anyhow, the Holy Grail* of anomaly management is a system that sends the right alerts to the right people, and never sends them wrong ones. And the quest seems about as hard as that for the Holy Grail, although this one uses more venture capital and fewer horses. Read more

May 30, 2016

Adversarial analytics and other topics

Five years ago, in a taxonomy of analytic business benefits, I wrote:

A large fraction of all analytic efforts ultimately serve one or more of three purposes:

  • Marketing
  • Problem and anomaly detection and diagnosis
  • Planning and optimization

That continues to be true today. Now let’s add a bit of spin.

1. A large fraction of analytics is adversarial. In particular: Read more

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