Business Intelligence Apps Are Moving Beyond IT To Reach Business Users Directly

By Tom Groenfeldt

December 5, 2016

Business intelligence has two components — business and intelligence, notes Matt Rauscher, vice president of Yseop, a business intelligence and reporting company.

“If it isn’t intelligible to the business, it isn’t BI.”

Senior executives have long had access to BI through dashboards, along with data scientists to interpret it for them. Increasingly, BI is moving out to provide direct access to users throughout the organization. At Finovate in New York, Good Data said it provides a platform that financial institutions can use to create and distribute self-service analytics. QEData announced its package to let bank clients feed transactional data into its predictive analytics and see their cash flow predictions up to six months out.

Argentina’s largest bank, ICBC has opened access to its Teradata platform to users throughout the bank. Formerly Standard Bank Argentina, it was acquired by the Chinese bank ICBC, in 2011.

Pablo Licheri, head of information management at ICBC, said the bank decided seven years ago to use Teradata as its foundation for multiple analytical projects; now 18 departments are using it to analyze internal and external data.

“We have helped departments achieve a higher level of insight and intelligence,” he said. “They have been able to think about more complex things and implement them in production.”

Large organizations are increasingly opening up their IT assets to users, getting away from the practice of centralizing IT and requiring business users to go through IT shops to do analysis, said Oliver Ratzesberger, EVP and chief product officer of Teradata.

“The next gen thinking companies say business analytics cannot be done by a centralized technology group. While you need central architectures and scalable implementations, we need to democratize access.”

Companies have to protect personally identifiable information, of course, but as they store more and more data they are starting to think about how to make it broadly available. A next generation that thinks in terms of crowd-sourced insight will demand it.

At ICBC, access to the data warehouse has inspired new departments, Licheri said. The bank had a department for commercial intelligence, but when staff saw what could be done with data analytics, they created a separate marketing team to run campaigns with targeted and personalized offerings.

Even the corporate bankers have made use of the data warehouse.

“Corporate banking people used to say they had just a few big customers and knew them personally, so they didn’t need a data warehouse, but in the last two years they have been working with it more closely.“

The bank’s CEO has pushed to decentralize data and analytics, and the IT organization is a key part of that.

“We share everything with the departments and teach them. We tell them to hire their own data scientists,” Licheri said. “In IT we have an infinite amount of demand, and we know that if we try to keep the knowledge it doesn’t scale. We try to empower the business users even without them realizing it.”

IT tries to provide the level of support departments are comfortable with, and that varies by department and staff.

“Some just want a dashboard and others want to learn about every field and where all the data comes from. In some cases, people who are good at IT just want to know where to get the data and then they go to work with it.”

Teradata has been proud of its extreme simplicity, which makes it easy for people outside of IT to use it, said Ratzesberger. “You don’t need to get the data model right, you can load data without a model. A lot of projects are run with raw data and it gets modeled and optimized as companies start to understand what they are doing with the data.”

ICBC’s IT organization isn’t above prodding departments to do more by telling them how other departments are getting ahead in their use of analytics.

Before it acquired a new CEO in 2010, the Argentinian bank restricted access to Teradata.

“There was a strong focus on restricting access and control of the data warehouse, the same way we did with the rest of the banking applications,” said Licheri. “All software development was done by IT and that led to dissatisfied users. Users would extract data and then use it in their own applications, such as Excel.

“The new CEO helped us think about a longer term vision,” said Licheri, “with a focus on business value. We try to give the business user and analysts all they need to do their job.”

The bank has row-level security on the data warehouse so hundreds of users can have access to the data they need for their work. They can use Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) and Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) with auditing through IMB’s data security product, Guardium.

Departments have access to a Teradata sandbox where they can load and join data — moving projects off department servers and PCs with huge improvements in performance and security, he said.

“They can do data wrangling and data blending, and they can do it for themselves.” Some departments want to hold their information while others publish it or share it inside the bank through subscriptions.

“We are using MicroStrategy to automate and publish some of the findings and the visualizations created by our data scientists in a way that can be easily consumed by users,” he added.


This article was written by Tom Groenfeldt from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.