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BI Summit / Goin’ up north where the wind blows tall

I’ve never figured out why one hard-thumping song by Tom Waits brings to my mind the annual Pacific Northwest BI and Analytics Summit. Yet it does, even now as I prepare for the six-hour drive up to Grants Pass, Oregon. It’s my sixth consecutive time, and the Summit’s sixteenth.

I start out the drive with “Goin’ Out West” on my mind. “I’m goin’ out west where the wind blows tall / ‘Cause Tony Franciosa used to date my ma.” By the time I arrive on the Weasku Inn’s big lawn, dig out a beer from the ice chest, and say hello to the nearest person, the song’s gone. It’s show time.

The pessimism of “Goin’ Out West” seems like a raspberry at the event’s breezy conversation and such traditions as grilled salmon dinner on the deck, tequila shots later, and friendly conversation until you can’t stay up any longer. Very late, you can glance up at one window and imagine Clark Gable mourning Carole Lombard. He spent two weeks doing that up there.

But forget the raspberry. It’s just fun. Though the leading men and women there do obsess about technology and bluff about everything else, this is a summit, you know. Wind happens at high altitude, and everyone’s got altitude here.

Astute readers will observe that “Goin’ Out West” makes fun of those who, it would seem, should stay home. “I’m no extra, baby, I’m a leading man,” says Waits’ character. He drives his “Olds 88” with “a hole in the roof the shape of a heart.” He’s “goin’ out west where they’ll appreciate me.” He’s headed for Hollywood.

No one wears a name badge here. Anyone can hang out on the deck and be a leading man or leading woman. Everyone knows each other or is about to. You can change your name to Hannibal or maybe just Rex.

Twitter hashtag is #BISUM.

BI Summit / Putting one more V on big data: virtue

Big data needs a bigger heart than it’s shown so far — essentially the point that Jill Dyché will make this Friday at the sixteenth annual Pacific Northwest BI and Analytics Summit in Grants Pass, OR.

Organizations have a responsibility to improve lives, as she puts it, “one citizen, patient, taxpayer, sports fan, and dog at a time.” To report on her presentation, which precedes a 90 minute discussion among 20 industry experts and observers, will be three dutiful reporters: longtime industry observer Steve Swoyer, TechTarget executive editor Craig Stedman, and me.

Jill’s session will be one of four. The first two occur on Friday, one on Saturday, and the last one on Sunday. The three others are by Donald Farmer, recently of Qlik and now of his own Treehive Strategy, on the analytic experience; Mike Ferguson of his own, UK-based Intelligent Business Strategies on the new-and-cool edge analytics; and Merv Adrian of Gartner on data lake architectures.

Jill’s topic continues on her theme of last year. She told how a dog shelter using pre-digital processes sent a dog to be euthanized just as would-be adoptees asked to take the dog. That was sad, but the eventual adoption of digital processes, which she drove, certainly prevented future tragedies.

Getting for-profit organizations to use data for more than profit might be harder. Do companies really care about philanthropy? Or does most business leadership believe that one-offs are good enough? Is it good enough to ally with the Sierra Club?

We’ll see what she and others have to say.

Twitter hashtag is #BISUM.

‘How’s it compare with Tableau?’

No matter what BI product Suzanne Hoffman mentions during needs-assessment meetings with business users at SMBs, she says, the question is the same nine times out of ten: “How’s it compare with Tableau?”

“No one ever asks how it compares with Power BI,” says Hoffman, an industry consultant with vast experience. She does mention Power BI as a “low cost alternative.” But it’s thrown out more often than not.

They want down and dirty and a low learning curve, she finds. The winners of that contest are things like Tableau and Domo. Ask for a line of code, such as in Qlik or Power BI, and it gets wiped off the whiteboard.

The market has taken note. Tableau lookalikes pop up, change, and disappear so fast it’s hard to keep track . “It’s like trying to compare drops of water on pavement,” she said. “They dry up before you get a chance to look at them.”

“Radical” change under new Tableau CEO

The changes at Tableau Software in the eight months since CEO Adam Selipsky succeeded co-founder Christian Chabot have been “pretty radical,” says Dan Murray, director of strategic innovation at InterWorks, one of Tableau’s earliest partners if not the first.

“There’s been pretty much of a brain-ectomy” over the last few months, he told me by phone on Friday. People have been leaving.

Whether that’s good or bad might depend on your point of view. To Dan, there’s only good news in the department he cares about most: The development team seems to be intact and performing as well as ever.

He mentioned two technologies in particular whose potential is much greater than most people realize: One that’s already part of Tableau is the data interpreter, the Excel ingest tool. He asks people if they use it, and they shrug. It’s not sexy. “This is going to do a lot more in the next couple of years,” he said.

The other widely underestimated technology is Hyper, the Munich-developed database technology acquired by Tableau in 2016. He compares the potential to the first great re-engineering of the Tableau extract engine five versions back.

The new CEO, Adam Selipsky, “isn’t nearly the stage presence [of Chabot], but he’s a detail freak,” he said. The consensus among employees he’s talked to is that this should have happened a few years ago. “He’s very, very deeply engaged in the business at every level.”

With Seplisky, he said, “you don’t get the husky-eyeball treatment and wow factor [as with Chabot]. But all the employees who’ve been there a while the the tech, operational types are really impressed with the guy. He’s much more in command of the business aspects, more detail oriented.”

He sees new, more seasoned managers coming in. In sales, he said, Tableau now seems friendlier to partners. “The business getting to size where they need a vertical focus,” he said. “It’s the natural evolution.”

What are Tableau’s prospects now as it hurdles toward maturity? “I think they’ve got a lot of juice left in them.”

Take the BARC survey, get a summary of results

The international analyst firm known as BARC, for Business Application Research Center, has been compared to Gartner and Forrester for its broad, vendor-independent assessment of vendors. BARC calls its annual survey “the world’s largest annual survey of business intelligence users.”

The survey has just begun and runs until mid-May. BARC estimates that it takes about 20 minutes to complete. Participants answer questions about their use of BI products from any vendor. BARC compiles the data to analyze buying decisions, implementation cycles, and the benefits of BI products.

All participants will receive a summary of the results and the chance to win an Amazon gift card.

Reach the survey here.

For more information, contact Adrian Wyszogrodzki, awyszogrodzki@barc.de.