Summit 2016 Shows the Way to Better Data, Better Analytics

Terri White
June 20, 2016

This just in! We're having one more contest to celebrate the best moments of Summit. Simply follow @infobldrs on Twitter and retweet contest posts from the handle until June 29 for a chance to win. (RT’s must include both the #IBSummit and #RT2Win hashtags.) We’ll randomly select one winner from all eligible entries next week to win a FitBit. See Official Terms & Conditions here.

There was something for everyone at Summit 2016. CEO Gerry Cohen exclaimed the sessions were “just terrific” – the most tremendous content he’s seen delivered at a Summit.

It's hard to sum up Summit, but here’s a little fly-over of our week in Reno.

From big picture BI and analytics trends to the smallest detail like choosing the right chart type for an effective dashboard, Summit had it all. And the best place to experience it all was the buzzing Expert Center. A hive of activity throughout the conference, customers brought their questions and ideas to Information Builders’ product gurus. The came with a complex problem, an architectural conundrum, or some scenarios they wanted to talk through. They left with ideas and solutions that they could immediately put to use back at the office. People visited multiple times as new ideas and questions came to them, and to drill down on what they just heard in a session. The Technical Content group was busy showing off all the new resources they’ve put together to support users of WebFOCUS. And the new WebFOCUS BUE lounge was a hit for the customers that couldn’t wait to get back to the office to take this exciting new product for a spin. 

Some of the industry’s best and brightest analysts were on hand to talk about trends and best practices: Howard Dresner, Dresner Advisory Services; Mark Smith, Ventana Research; Wayne Eckerson, Eckerson Group; Boris Evelson, Forrester Research; and Lyndsay Wise, Enterprise Management Associates. Attendees found these sessions a perfect overlay to the hands-on labs and other educational content.

The Solutions Pavilion showcased offerings from technology and consulting partners. Many customers presented their success stories formally in sessions, and many others exchanged ideas in one of the many networking breaks. Almost every customer I spoke with said that the best part of Summit is the openness and sharing amongst all attendees. Our customers are here to learn from us and from each other.  

Hot Products, Hit Features

Organizations are in the midst of a transformation fueled by the sheer volume of data they are collecting and the business value that can be realized by turning that data into insights for better decisions. According to Howard Dresner’s presentation and recent Wisdom of Crowds Market Study, the top five technologies and initiatives strategic to BI are: Reporting, Dashboards, End user "self-service", Advanced visualization and Data discovery. And guess what? WebFOCUS BUE provides all five capabilities from one easy-to-use tool.

The announcement of WebFOCUS Business User Edition (BUE) was cheered by customers who want governed self-service data discovery and analysis. With shared metadata, the analytics content and data visualizations created in BUE can seamlessly run on the WebFOCUS platform, scale to multitudes of users, with everyone working from the same trusted and accurate data. BUE represents a new era in self-service BI and analytics that is modern, agile, flexible and fast – and one that can be easily expanded for “bigger BI” applications. Where other self-service tools will hit the wall, BUE is an enterprise champ with the security and scalability to prove it. Read coverage of the BUE announcement in CRM Magazine here.   

Another hot topic was the BI Portal. It’s a unique component of WebFOCUS that lets organizations serve different user constituents with dashboards and InfoApps that are customized for their information needs. It allows companies to foster a culture of transparency by supporting a variety of use cases with the same data foundation so there is no discrepancy. Customers loved the improvements in responsive web design with the BI Portal as everyone is seeing a big uptick in mobile access.   

I Like Big Data and I Cannot Lie

Big data continues to be a big topic for Information Builders customers and it showed at Summit. Many of the partners in the Solutions Pavilion – AmtexBI, Cloudera, MapR, EngageHi2, esri, D3 Information Systems, Cloudsquare, and Clutchpoint -- provided expertise in big data wrangling, management and analytics. Boris Evelson from Forrester Research presented “Turning Big Data into Actionable Insights.” It was clear from his research that a majority of organizations are considering big data technologies and solutions – 54% plan to implement in next 12 months and 23% are interested in doing so, with 15% planning to upgrade their current solution. But Boris made plain that big data was not a solution to everything. “You still need to lock down business goals, data governance, and IT and business alignment,” he said. 

The breakout sessions took a deeper dive into big data technologies, use cases, and best practices. Cloudera talked about the evolution of the Hadoop ecosystem and how to leverage existing investments in Information Builders technologies to optimize existing workflows and deliver a new generation of analytical applications. Principal Financial Group presented its latest dashboard that transforms unstructured big data into a stunning visual and interactive experience to analyze web metrics of Principal's 401k landing page. Attendees learned from big data product managers about our new iWay Big Data Integrator product and how it can reduce IT overhead for managing big data environments, as well as new adapters for Apache Drill and Apache Phoenix. It was a big data bonanza.

Thought Leaders Share Studies, Baking Tips

What is an analytical culture? This question was explored in our keynote Innovation Panel and in many sessions over the course of the week. Howard Dresner says it’s when an organization communicates, interacts and shares information across departments and job functions. It’s when silos are broken down using shared insights as a tool to do it. It’s when business intelligence apps are pushed out beyond employees to customers and suppliers for real ROI.

Mark Smith explored another angle – the importance of nurturing a healthy data management foundation and enforcing business rules to support a rich, insightful analytical culture. Placing governance on the data and users is essential to ensure accuracy of information because of the exploding demand for data and insights. This requires effective processes and systems for business and IT users for self-service speed and success.

EMA’s Lyndsay Wise talked about the impact of cloud on accelerating and simplifying analytics, and the choices that you need to make before deploying. According to the EMA 2015 survey based on 208 business and IT respondents from around the world, 78% of organizations have a business analytics strategy in the cloud. Drivers for cloud uptake are the need for increased agility to take advantage of flexible IT architectures, business processes, and resources to ensure continuous improvements and business insight.

How is the adoption of analytics like baking a cake? In his presentation, Wayne Eckerson made the analogy that you don’t start with the icing or the batter. You start with the customer to find out if they even like cake, and if so, what kind? Understanding your audience is critical to your success, and one reason why BI and analytics adoption is challenging - there are many types of users with different requirements. Business users want fast performance, trustworthy data, actionable dashboards, modifiable reports, and mobile delivery. Power users want data mashups, visual analysis, analytic functions, reusable logic, and content sharing. That’s a lot of cakes in the oven!

Wayne reports that the untapped market for BI and analytics lies in operationalizing it: 1) Producing reports from operational systems, and 2) Sending reports, dashboards, and other analytical content to business users. This requires low latency, high user concurrency, highly scalable, tailored, and interactive BI apps serving thousands of users. This is where Information Builders shines, says Wayne.

We Are Family. I Got All My Systems with Me.

We are a leading technology company, but it's our people that give us the edge. User Groups are the heart of the customer community and the most-engaged members help us to drive attendance at Summit and keep that Summit spirit going all year long. Our team of Customer Development Managers take great pride in their work and have built lasting relationships with their customers. Time and again, we hear people talking about Information Builders as a family – that comes from both employees and customers. It is a family in the best sense: we want the absolute best for each other.

I had the pleasure of attending the User Group President’s luncheon hosted by Customer Care Manager Kathleen Butler and learned some cool facts. There are more than 70 established User Groups Worldwide! We held 118 Local User Group events in 2015 in North America, plus 50+ Virtual meetings. We are focused on growing our International presence and have already made a great start in Europe with more than 20 events. If you are interested in learning more about user groups, both in-person and virtual, check out our Customer Community portal.

Congrats to Customer Award Winners

The 2016 Customer Awards of Distinction recognize Information Builders’ customers for their exceptional use of BI and analytics solutions to improve data access and insights across their organizations.

This year we honored Allegis Global Solutions, Autozone, Pershing, The City of Irving, Texas and St. Luke’s University Health Network. Well done to all for your innovative use of Information Builders technology to build inspirational and transformative applications.

Howdy, Partners

Information Builders partners with a wide array of industry-leading companies to deliver cutting-edge products and services for our valued customers. This year’s Solutions Pavilion featured many exhibitors, including Information Builders’ product lines as well as our partners including AmtexBI, Business & Decision, Cloudera, Cloudsquare, Clutchpoint, D3 Information Systems, DMI, EngageHi2, esri, Invexer, ORockCloud, MapR, QuikMetrix, and Scale Computing.

We congratulate the recipients of our 2016 Partner Awards of Distinction Cloudera and EngageHi2 for their ongoing contributions to customer success.

Ask Gerry (About His New Book)

Gerry Cohen took the stage for his perennial “Ask Gerry” session in which he fields questions from the audience and then hands out prizes to raffle winners, and to the coveted “Best Presentation” winners as voted by Summit attendees. This year there were the usual questions about next year’s venue (to be announced soon!) as well as a few more interesting asks, sampled below.

Q: How many FOCUS users are there?

A: There are 500 machines still running mainframe FOCUS for mission-critical applications.

Q: Where would you like to focus on global expansion?

We have millions of users in countries all around the world. I’d like to give Elon Musk a free trial of BUE so he could rocket it to the moon. We don’t have any users there yet.

Q: What cool feature are you most excited about?

A: Search-based BI. I want our voice-recognition Siri-like interface in WebFOCUS to allow users to choose the voice and accent of their choice, like you could choose to hear your sales forecast from a British woman.

Q: How does Information Builders remain a leader in the BI and analytics market?

A: Nobody has all of what we have, and we’ll continue to stay at the forefront.

In the closing reception, Gerry signed copies of his new book, Organizational Intelligence: How Smart Companies Use Information to be More Competitive and Profitable. Co-authored by Dr. Rado Kotorov, Information Builders’ VP Market Strategy, the pair has combined their knowledge and experience to help readers learn how to leverage data and analytic applications to promote fact-based decision-making and drive bottom-line results. The special Summit edition is an advanced copy just for attendees and features case studies from Ford Motor Company, US Bank, Utz Quality Foods, and many other market-leading organizations that are currently benefiting from creating innovative informational apps (InfoApps™) to raise organizational intelligence. Stay tuned for more information on the official publication.

Until Next Year

That’s a little sumthin’ sumthin’ on Summit. If you want more, come join us next year! In the meantime, explore more learning opportunities in our WebFOCUS BUE Information Center.

And if you want to watch the Summit opening keynote, the session is now available to view on demand on IBTV.