Live from the SAPinsider Studio: Fredrik Tunvall on Collaborative BI

Recorded live at the BI and HANA 2014 conference in Orlando

May 2, 2014

In this interview recorded live at the BI 2014 conference in Orlando, Fredrik Tunvall of Ovum discusses the topic of collaborative business intelligence. Topics covered in the discussion include:

  • Challenges to creating a collaborative BI environment
  • How collaborative BI and self-service BI can co-exist
  • Impact of mobility on collaborative BI

View the video, and read the edited transcript of this conversation with Fredrik Tunvall here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I’m reporting live from SAPinsider’s 2014 BI and 2014 HANA event, pleased to be joined by Fredrik Tunvall, analyst with Ovum, covering business intelligence. Fredrik, thanks for joining us.

Fredrik Tunvall, Ovum: You’re welcome, no problem, glad to be here!

Ken: So I understand you’re researching a report of collaborative BI for Ovum, just hoping you could tell me what you’re hearing from organizations you’re speaking with about collaborative BI and just shed some light on what it is?

Fredrik: To be honest, what I’m hearing is not really happening right now, cause you know what I do in my job a lot, I talk to a lot of technology vendors, like SAP, and then I talk to a lot of enterprise clients. And collaborative BI, in the sense that we want to see it happen, hasn’t happened yet. I think we’re going there with things like mobile and cloud but there’s a big aspect of it that I believe is not happening, it’s the culture part, where the company is actually encouraging the collaborative environment to happen. I think that’s a big problem, and it’s something we’ve tried to solve. But yeah, it’s a very interesting report because I’m trying to look at what kind of functionality in a BI tool can actually kind of help the collaborative kind of process to happen.  

Ken: So maybe shed some light on what some of those challenges are that kind of prevent that collaborative environment from being fostered?

Fredrik: Sure, I mean first of all I think everybody kind of realizes that collaborative—collaboration in BI is a good idea, right, we don’t make a lot of decisions by ourselves in businesses, we usually when we make a decision it’s in a group as a team. But the way we like to do it is in a meeting, over the phone. The reason why it isn’t happening today is I think a lot of it is because of regulation; so I was talking to a big tax company in the US and they have about 30,000 employees and they implemented this collaborative system like over a year ago. When I talked to the guy he said today we have 300 active users a year after we installed, out of 30,000. And the biggest problem is, from top down, a lot of regulation coming down, you can’t say this, you can’t say that, so they don’t really let the kind of free-flow happen. So I think that’s a big kind of obstacle that we see. And then I think also too that the BI vendors themselves haven’t really figured out what capability should we actually put into the tool, should we just put notes in there, should we let them integrate with other collaborative platforms, so it’s a work in progress, but I think it is something we are going to reach eventually.

Ken: So, I’m curious though, where collaborative BI, how does that play against self-service business intelligence? It seems that might be kind of a conflicting area, is that true, or no?

Fredrik: No, I don’t think so, cause I think it’s happening with self-service, and we like to call that the visual data discovery market. We’re seeing a lot of activity in the BI market now, so you’re trying to get more business users involved in the BI process, but to do that I think you need to make sure it’s governed, and you have to still kind of have people who understand the data to hold people’s hands so they can actually make decisions. And that’s where I think the collaborative aspect actually comes in, I think, so if you’re a business user, you might not understand the underlying data, you might not understand underlying models, analytical models, so you’re going to need help from that person who’s a data scientist or something, that person may not be in the same office as you. So if you can somehow have a BI platform, or a collaborative environment, that that BI platform integrates into, the data scientist can sit in a competency center and help these business users actually understand the data that they’re querying ad hoc, or interacting with, so I think collaboration plays a big part of making self-service happen in a governed way.

Ken: I see. And then what specifically though about mobility and collaboration in a mobility environment for BI?

Fredrik: So, I think what the mobile aspect brings to BI is that you suddenly have access to your BI environment, you have access to the business data, wherever you are, so if you see some deviation in the KPI or something like that, you might want to be able to ping a person, you know, you might call that person, who knows, but maybe that person’s asleep, so you can actually, with a mobile device that you have the access to the data in real-time, you’ll be able to ping the person live, and then that person comes back to you and just write a little note while you’re in a meeting and say you know, don’t worry about it, it’s because x, y, z. So it’s more the asynchronous kind of communication that can happen between two parties just to kind of calm an executive down because he saw something in sales that went wrong or something so you can put a little note in there, don’t worry about it, I know you’re going to get an alert about it. So I think mobility kind of brings that aspect, that it’s this kind of everywhere access, you know, and everywhere collaboration.

Ken: So what about specifically maybe for an SAP install base, some of these things that you’re talking about, is there any specific challenges or things to look out for, specifically for that SAP install base?

Fredrik: Yeah, so I think the SAP specifically, if you look at their kind of products, so if you’re a BusinessObjects user, you’re maybe using the mirror or something, SAP just seems to have a pretty big investment in it with Jam…  So I think to kind of see how they’re actually leveraging these two different products to actually bring collaborations together. So I think that’s where you should keep an eye out, what developments did you see with Jam and what developments did you see with their portfolio and how are the two working together? So yeah, one thing I recommend is following the evangelist that SAP has, his name is Timo Elliott, cause he talks a lot about collaboration and culture, so I like to follow his blog whenever I want to see what the latest is about the SAP kind of, products.

Ken: Great. And just for people that might not know, what is that, what is the blog?

Fredrik: I—look up Timo Elliott, I don’t know exactly but he’s the evangelist for the BI portfolio at SAP, so look up his name, he writes a lot of good posts, he’s on Twitter and stuff, he’s a good one to follow. He talks a lot about culture and collaboration.

Ken: Well Fredrik, thanks for joining us.

Fredrik: Of course, it’s nice being here.

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy, with SAPinsider, reporting live from SAPinsider’s BI and HANA 2014 event.          

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