Current Trends in BI

(Update) Understanding IT

Over the past year I have been engaged in writing two books, Understanding IT: A Guide for Business Leaders, and Current Trends in Business Intelligence. My last update cited that I would be releasing both books in January's 2015, and I am pleased to announce that this date is still solid.  However, there has been one very significant adjustment to my original plan: Current Trends will no longer be a stand-alone work.

As it stood, Current Trends was going to end up being a short work of approximately forty pages with a large number of pictures and diagrams, and I just did not feel comfortable releasing it as its own product.  Simply put: I wasn't falling in love with where the book was going. As a result, I decided to scrap the forty page book and expand the topics covered in Understanding IT to also include data science fundamentals, the Information Technology Service Management framework, project management, and more case-studies in proper IT governance as it relates to first-time IT managers and small business owners.

It is my belief that, while it made sense to start the books as individual works, the combined manuscript will be more beneficial to the consumer while aligning more with my career goals (to obtain an ITIL and PMP certification) and producing a product in which I am more proud to claim ownership.

The process of combining the books was relatively easy, but the extra research load (namely reading through the libraries of ITSM and PMP) has proven to be a challenge.  However, given that I have an 80% complete manuscript (already line-edited), I've also started approaching agents and publishers to give traditional publishing a fair shot before moving on to independent alternatives.

What is Business Intelligence?

Imagine that you have a small, but rapidly expanding, business that finds itself with multiple ways of storing data.  You start with the best of intentions to have one central database for all of your resources, but you've increasingly found yourself with more software suites requiring very different database management systems; and that's a problem.

It's a problem because while this information is loosely related, there is nothing you can do to link the data together.  After all, SQL 2000 does not talk with MySQL 3.23; so how do we analyze the the information that's contained in so many different types of databases?  We first enable data relationships through a process known as ETL or Extract, Transform, Load.

This brief video explains how a company might find itself in this situation and how ETL can assist it in combining data into a central repository known as a data warehouse. This data warehouse is a snapshot of several databases (like those listed in the video) in one central repository so that analysts can turn the data into actionable information.  This process of turning data into actionable information is known as Business Intelligence.

Business Intelligence involves any action required to take a business process (like "enroll a student") to analysis (such as "how many lower income students enrolled in 2014?") to action ("Improve enrollment rates of lower income students").  These steps vary depending on the size and scope of operations, but can typically be reduced into a simple data process which has been succinctly defined by Google:

  • Prepare
  • Analyze
  • Apply

While not every company will require an ETL process, a data warehouse, or an OLAP cube, every company must prepare their data before it can be analyzed.  Similarly, analysis must take place before knowledge can be accurately applied; and every company will have different method of analysis.  The single commonality is that Business Intelligence requires preperation, analysis, and application in order to turn data into profit.

Want to know more?  Check out my book Understanding IT in January 2015 or subscribe to this RSS feed for more updates and teasers during the writing process.  Alternatively, if you have an immediate project that you need help with, please check out my consultation services below.

Writing Updates

As many of you may recall, I've been working on a book, Understanding IT: A Guide for Business Leaders, and I had recently decided to publish my graduate thesis under the title Current Trends in Business Intelligence. What you probably haven't known is the progress that I've made on these projects.

Understanding IT is a book that aims to give a high-level overview of the Information Technology science, career, and best practices from bus architecture to databases while being specifically targeted towards small business leaders or newly appointed manager over IT assets and personnel.

Current Trends is my graduate thesis outlining how companies have traditionally acquired data, turned it into knowledge, and used that knowledge to make money; why business intelligence has traditionally been a privilege of the silicon valley giants; and why the rise of open source products and MOOCs are making business intelligence more applicable to smaller firms.

I'm about five of ten chapters completed with my rough draft of Understanding IT, and about 1/3 completed with the 30pg thesis that Current Trends represents, so I'm feeling relatively confident that I can have a rough manuscript completed by late April or early May.  After that, I'll hand the manuscripts off to an editor (in this case Gabriel Fitzpatrick), come up with something for the cover art, and do a whole bunch of administrative junk associated with self publishing.

My goal is to be completed sometime around Christmas with a publication date of January 2015!