The road ahead for information management

While the information management space has traditionally been the domain of a few experts it's starting to hit the mainstream agenda.

While historically the technical nature of information management ensured it remained firmly in the domain of a few experts, 2013 saw various technologies and capabilities hit the mainstream agenda.

This year expect to see the following trends continue to take prominence in the IT leaders’ agenda, and with an even higher degree of convergence, with greater understanding and increasing implementation by Australian organisations.

Big data

The true value of big data comes from using fast moving data and the complexities of available data not to find new information in a ‘light bulb’ moment, but to meet specific business objectives.

Applying analytics to big data helps identify and optimise business activity across the organisation and allows companies to effectively and consistently understand and influence their customers. The power behind big data is realising small incremental improvements in performance and efficiency for long term improvements and success.

In the coming year, with greater industry understanding of how real benefits are realised from big data, we hope to see many other organisations embrace it.

Advanced Analytics

While there is an incredibly strong business case for analytics in many organisations across multiple sectors, we didn’t actually witness as many companies embrace it as the information management industry expected.

As organisations continue to strive to better understand the customer experience and market toward the “customer segment of one,” advanced analytics will continue to be a major focus. Analytics will become more and more mainstream as organisations come to terms with their data and want to better understand their business and their customers for better results.

We will also witness analytics no longer as the domain of financial services and retail giants as medium sized organisations embrace the power of better understanding their customers and improving business efficiencies.

Predicting human behaviour

Traditionally, organisations held basic information on customers such as name and contact details, age, gender, geographical location, etc. While this is solid data on which to perform traditional BI, new analytics capabilities mean that organisations can use technology to predict human behaviour.

To do this, new customer interaction data sources are required to compliment that traditional customer data. Call (voice), video, web and text analytics tools offer new interaction sources. These can monitor, decode and analyse how customers talk when they call your organisation, how they move around your physical store front or office, how they navigate your website and what they say when they write to you.

As more analytics tools become available and affordable, more organisations can and will embrace predicting human behaviour.

Agile

The Agile development approach to information management saw greater take up last year as Australian organisations and the public sector demanded faster, more measurable returns on their BI investments. An Agile approach can be used to incrementally remove operational costs and if deployed correctly, can return great benefits to any organisation.

Unlike the traditional waterfall methodology, where planning is all done upfront, agile IM delivery folds 80 per cent of planning into the actual program deployment. This not only gets projects off the ground faster and gives the business results sooner, but yields much better requirements, so the effectiveness of the development team increases dramatically.

The Agile approach should continue to pick up pace in popularity, alongside other related areas that have appeared as a result of its wider recognition. The success of the Agile movement has pushed thinking in a few areas of information management, one of which is automated testing.

Automated testing

The information management industry is, more and more, looking toward a test driven approach to building projects.

The automated testing approach starts projects by building a test infrastructure first, then as each section of a project is built and developed, it is incorporated into this automated testing. 

Automation sees testing done on a daily basis rather than the traditional approach of a long test phase at the end of a project. This daily automated testing means it is easier for project teams to identify what may require modification within a project, and allows for changes to be made immediately, before moving onto the next phase. Automated testing allows sections of a project to be finalised and delivered to the organisation quickly and incrementally.  A perfect fit to an agile approach.

Data modelling

Another major shift is the way the information management industry is looking at data structures. The first way of structuring data was developed by Edgar Codd back in the 1970s, but many decades later there is now a movement called hyper generalisation that is gaining more prevalence in the industry.

One of these new models is Data Vault, which provides both the strategy and the detailed procedures that allows teams to develop an resilient integration layer that better handles changing business requirements and the progressive delivery of an Agile team. 

Data Vault is now a serious contender as the contemporary data warehousing integration modelling standard.

Cloud BI

Cloud computing has raised concerns of security aspects, with companies reticent to place sensitive data in the cloud due to questions of data sovereignty, data jurisdiction, privacy, and surveillance.  

While security will remain a challenge for many organisations looking toward the cloud, the benefits of cloud BI are becoming apparent. Once organisations can transfer quality data to the cloud, there are numerous cost-effective BI tools available that lessen the burden on internal IT resources and provide opportunities for low initial investment.

Mobile BI

Mobile business applications have become a vital part of most organisations. The increase in maturity and adoption of mobile technology has created a workforce reliant upon instant access to information. Business intelligence is no exception.

Mobile business intelligence offers huge advantages for Australian organisations, and means that staff and management are never disconnected from the tools that help them make business decisions.

Mobile is still only a delivery channel enabled by web based server side delivery. If a CIO drives a cloud agenda, it’s more likely to enable a mobile agenda. Due to the ease of consumption, more C-level executives will see the value of better business decision making, more often, when and where they need it.

Appliances

The final trend that is gaining traction in the information management and business intelligence community is the wide spread adoption of appliances.

As it has become available, more and more organisations are buying appliances with BI software installed and ready to go at the push of a button. This trend will only gain more momentum as more affordable appliances emerge with greater computing power. 

Cameron Wall is the managing partner at C3 Business Solutions