Pushing big data to the executive edge

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Executive proximity
  3. Create cooperative workflows
  4. Streamline application interfaces
  5. Enrich and enliven interface visualizations
  6. Key takeaways
  7. About William McKnight

1. Summary

Fully utilized big data can give organizations a competitive advantage if they can get it to decision-makers, or what we call the “executive edge.” But getting big data to that demographic requires the business intelligence (BI) community to help executives overcome their big-data dissonance.

Large global organizations are pumping money and effort into big-data initiatives. Certainly, they expect significant returns on their investments. For several years now, BI analysts and vendors have been developing strategies and tools to bring BI to the executive, so that decisions can be informed by the latest and most critical information. The question is whether the same strategies that brought BI to the executive can work for big data.

For many business executives, big data is still ambiguous — even today. Before they can understand how to leverage the technology they need to get their hands in it and their arms around it. One strategy is self-service BI. That means cutting out the middlemen — IT, data analysts, and report developers — and allowing a user to create BI on-demand.

Results have been mixed. In successful cases, self-service BI has genuinely empowered business users and executives. In less-successful cases, self-service BI has translated into “no-service BI” and stranded users with clumsy tools and an inadequate understanding of the underlying data. Big data will likely bewilder executives and business users who never adopted BI, or who received little support for their self-service BI. Spanning the chasm between executives and big data in a way that self-service BI cannot requires cooperative workflows and discourse about big data as well as streamlining big data application interfaces.

This report provides the BI community with information it can use to help executives use big data effectively and at the same time raise their expectations about what they should expect from the BI community.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Big data’s volume gives value and validity to decision-making but can overwhelm decision-makers.
  • Pushing big data out rather than waiting for decision-makers to “pull” it can change the way executives interact with the technology.
  • Cooperative workflows that bring the executive alongside the analyst for active engagement in the knowledge construction process can create big-data BI applications that lead to decision and action.
  • A key element for reconciling the paradox of BI application interfaces — that is, ever-bigger data and ever-smaller interfaces — is quality data visualization.
  • Drawing from best practices, interface developers and designers can create effective and appealing data displays that educate business users and raise their expectations and demands.


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