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Obis Omni is, for want of a better term, a UK-based special interest group dedicated to the business intelligence community. Quite what the name means I do not know as an obi is a Japanese sash and it is not a Latin word, as Omni might suggest. Anyway, the organisation was founded last year and it has some 1,600 members (not all from the UK) from a variety of user organisations across the country. The organisation runs a variety of events, forums and so forth and I have recently hosted a panel discussion for Obis Omni at its 2-day annual conference. The discussion (the panel for which consisted of both users and independent consultants, plus input from the floor) was both interesting and unexpected.
To start things rolling I asked each of the panellists to tell the audience what their biggest current issue is and what they were doing about it, and what major issue they see looming on the horizon.
Perhaps it is my own bias but I had expected more technology-driven answers but, in fact, more or less the only technology that got any discussion at all (and that right at the end) was Excel spreadsheets and I have highlighted the problems with that in these pages in the past, so I won’t belabour them again.
No, the issues that were driving everyone were primarily about human interactions: how to bring IT and the business closer together; whether to implement a centre of excellence and in what form (distributed or centralised) and how that could help to drive collaboration between the business and IT; the difficulty faced in persuading the board over the importance of data governance; issues over stakeholder management; and so on.
The centre of excellence was discussed in some detail, not least because Rolls Royce claimed significant cost savings (45 man years per year if memory serves me correctly) as well as improved service. Essentially, RR uses a centralised model whereas Osborne Clarke use a more distributed approach but both claimed that in addition to its obvious functions it also pulled IT and the business closer together through a secondment model whereby business people are pulled into the centre of excellence for a limited time period or, conversely, when IT people are pushed into user departments. While relatively few of the attendees present had implemented a centre of excellence, hopefully the discussion will have encouraged a few more to think about the possibility.
One of the most interesting observations made (from the floor) for which there was a consensus, is that users don’t like the concept of ownership. ‘Owning the data’ is not something they want to do, because this implies obligations: so we in IT can talk about ownership but only to each other. One user suggested that identifying people ‘with an interest in the data’ was about as far as you can go.
I am often asked by vendors which events they should think about attending. Of course, there are the events that we at Bloor put on, such as the data warehousing/appliance conference in early November but these tend to be fairly specialised. For more across the board BI, Obis Omni should be high on most supplier lists: good location, well organised, high quality attendance and good presentations.