Readers of my thoughts on analytics and BI will know that I have long railed against the ever more universal adoption of technology and technical system integration as the heart of the solution on offer. I find the concept of showing the market a real solution but then selling only the base capability and expecting yet another very substantial investment of time and money to form that capability into any sort of useable end game something of a con trick. I get you to pay more than you want for something that delivers a lot less than you want seems to be the way of the world to the majority of the suppliers in this market, and most critically of the key players, be they vendors or consultants. At the heart of the malady is the fact that for the majority of the market place analytics and BI is seen as a technology in search of a solution rather then a business change project in which I understand your issues and address them not just with technology, but by helping you to form a holistic response that will work, and is fit for purpose, so it can evolve and respond to a fast changing business world.
The reason that Saltare, a niche UK based consultancy, have got me so excited is that they set out their stall by saying they do not develop BI software, build data infrastructure, or sell BI technology. They focus on addressing the issue that problem solving requires people, process and technology to be united to achieve the goal. Anyone can say words it is the actions that support them that are the real test of commitment.
Saltare have four core principles, firstly true business intelligence is more than just technology, it's not just about tools it is about how they are used. Secondly, that you should do the best you can with what you already have rather then look for a silver bullet in the form of a new technology regardless of the marketing hyperbole that surrounds it. Thirdly, that the focus should be on positive business change, so look for the things that matter, and will have the greatest positive business impact, and not the things that the technology can do. And lastly that a consultancy service based on coaching to empower self-sufficiency is the only way to achieve lasting excellence, and not the series of interesting, non-integrated point solutions, of what was the fad technology of that years budget that most BI portfolios represent.
Effective BI and analytics is about business change, and understanding that is the key to success. The existing model of delivering technology whilst avoiding the issue of how the business must change to be empowered by the new capabilities is at the heart of why Gartner can report on the vast majority of BI projects ending in failure. You cannot just present a set of results and tell people that by the way that is actionable insight get on and use it. This is why I have written so little about data science and the rise of machine learning, I have been using machine learning for over a decade it is not new and on its own it changes nothing. To use it effectively you have to have the infrastructure to support it, at the front end to get the data of high quality and decent coverage, and at the back end to show the business what the insights are showing us and how they need to adapt and change to use them. This is exactly what Saltare set out to achieve, and judging from the reaction of their customers are doing it in a consistent repeatable fashion. Its about understanding the goals, identifying the business processes that are needed to deliver those goals, then looking at what analytics can do to support those processes, and getting the processes in place to support and manage and exploit the outcomes. This is a self evident truth but Saltare and that small band of like minded companies that I tend to focus on seem to be alone in seeing that, so I can only surmise that this path is a lot more difficult and less profitable than just throwing technology over the wall supported by marketing hype and telling people to get on with it!
There is so much more I could say about the complete offering that Saltare have in support of what they deliver and I will return to it, but I want to just focus on the message that I believe they are a shining beacon of hope, which supports my view that there is a better way, and that it does deliver the sort of solutions we all want. Excellence does not have to cost the earth or take forever, it requires a change of mindset, dedication, evangelical zeal and a belief that actionable insight requires people process and technology and not just another box of tricks.