Technology Might Change, But Business Intelligence Remains The Same

Digital Transformation Is Not Really About The Technology

Steven Lerner

During the free Digital Transformation Online Summit on October 2-3, attendees will have an opportunity to hear a presentation entitled, “Making Business Intelligence Work in the Age of Digital Transformation.” The speaker for the presentation will be Greg Steffine, SVP and Director of the Business Intelligence and Analytics Competency Center at KeyBank, one of the United States’ largest bank-based financial services firms.

In his career of over 30 years in business intelligence (BI) and analytics, Steffine has had the privilege of working as a trusted advisor to some of the most recognizable names in business. He has also authored two books: “Hyper: Changing the way you think about, plan, and execute business intelligence for real results, real fast!” and “Think Fast!: The insight you need to compete and win with self-service analytics.”

Steffine’s presentation on BI focuses on specific aspects around execution, effective planning, and organizational change management regarding digital transformation. There’s a heavy emphasis on BI and analytics on the technology aspects of what successful enterprises do well. Many organizations recognize the instrumental role that BI plays in helping them to differentiate, innovate, and compete. Not every organization struggles to make BI work, and that's the point of the presentation. Steffine will point out why that is, the challenges that organizations face, why they face them, and what the audience can do to help their organizations overcome those challenges.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: Why is BI perhaps the most important subject within digital transformation?

Greg Steffine: The digital revolution is fundamentally changing businesses, and that's really about driving customer centricity in new and innovative ways. That paradigm shift in business is really — from a business intelligence and analytics perspective — no different than any other paradigm shift that has occurred in business over the last many, many years. Where we get data and the speed in which we get it might be different today than years ago, but the fundamentals of BI, the way I define it, using information to create and maximize value, is still the same. The struggles that organizations have to deal with in order to make analytics work are still the same. I'd say that businesses are moving at a much faster pace today. The speed at which we ingest information and the things we put in place to surface up analytics of the greatest point of impact are different. It's an evolution from how we've done things in the past, but it's still foundational to the old business intelligence and analytics story.

EME: During your presentation in the Summit, you will discuss the four primary challenges associated with BI planning and execution. Can you describe one of those challenges?

GS: I use four words to describe the four challenges, and what the solution are to the four challenges. The four words are unify, simplify, amplify, and qualify. They are the actionable steps associated with the four challenges. The first challenge, unify, is when organizations getting hammered with technology and they lose business perspective. The whole message there is that business intelligence is about business, not technology. The goal is value creation, to move the needle in business performance, to sell more, and to spend less time working smarter. Too many organizations get hung up on technology, and at the end of the day, the technology is irrelevant. As an AI practitioner, I can go into any organization, utilize whatever technology they already have, and be as effective as spending $1 million on a new platform. People often get hung up on technology. I talk about using what you have and determining that it can or can’t work to solve the problem before you go to the CFO to ask for additional investments, because most organizations have already invested significant amounts of money and intellectual capital around the technology they already have. So you use what you got.

EME: What happens when an organization moves forward with new technology without considering business intelligence?

GS: That happens all the time. New systems are put in place, you might have mergers and acquisitions, and all kinds of scenarios where organizations are reinventing themselves, especially around the digital revolution. This includes new technologies being brought on board from an operational perspective. Sometimes, limited consideration is given to how the data that is captured by those systems will ultimately be used to drive decision-making and improve business performance. Organizations will focus on the reporting or analytics capability that might be embedded within that system, but they give little thought as to how that data can or should be integrated with other information assets from around the company to help propel the organization further ahead. That's a problem, and it results in organizations not getting enough out of the investment and missing opportunities in the market. It's more costly because after the fact they got to figure out how to do that. They realize they need the data and they got to figure out how to integrate it with other data stores from around the organization. It's that lack of effective upfront planning that can be costly.

EME: How did you get started talking about this subject?

GS: I fell into this industry to be honest with you. I was supposed to be an investigative reporter. When I got out of school, I interned with CNN on Capitol Hill, so I was working in investigative reporting and then moving into business news. I then started working for an ad agency and I ended up taking ownership of some new technology that was being brought into the agency. I got exposed to not just computers, which I had already worked with and enjoyed, but now I was getting exposed to a project management and a systems implementation. I was enjoying all the associated data coming out of the system to drive analytics. And so one thing led to another and as my career progressed, I stayed in that arena — data and analytics — and here I am today. What got me into writing about the subject matter was that I've spent many, many years in consulting. I saw an opportunity to start conveying kind of what I was doing to help make customers successful, and more effective in their use of information to create value, and how I was approaching putting systems in place. I was changing the way they were doing business because I was delivering solutions there were more effective. I thought there was an opportunity to start sharing that.

EME: What's the one thing that you want attendees to take away from your presentation at the summit?

GS: I'd say there are better ways of doing what they're doing so when it comes to BI and trying to build out the capability that they need. There are better, more effective, and more efficient ways of doing what they're trying to do. They don't have to remain frustrated with the challenges that they confront every day around the lack of quality information or solutions that are not on point for what they need to help them solve their business problems. There is a better way, and that's what I'm going to talk about in the session.

Reserve your spot for the free Digital Transformation Online Summit on October 2-3 to learn about business intelligence and other important subjects.