I met last Thursday evening with the salesforce.com user group in Seattle, where I got to know several staff members from Tableau Software Inc.: a maker of visual data analysis and reporting tools that link with salesforce.com and other enterprise data repositories. The coincidence was notable, in that I’d just been speaking earlier that day with several local CIOs about the role of on-demand platforms in easing the adoption of business analytics.

I had noted at that earlier meeting the upcoming 20th anniversary of Peter Drucker‘s coinage, "The Knowledge-Based Organization": a phrase that he used in his 1989 book, The New Realities. We’re already past the 20th anniversary, moreover, of Tom Peters‘s "Systems" prescriptions in his 1987 book, Thriving on Chaos: specifically, his admonition to "Decentralize information, authority, and strategic planning." So, given that these ideas are old enough to vote, why do they still seem so challenging to put into practice?

I see four key barriers to the idea of "analytics everywhere":

  • Complex legacy IT portfolios make the mere integration of data an overwhelming task
  • Cumbersome and brittle integrations relegate end users to the role of information consumer
  • The path of least resistance leads to over-emphasis on complex measures based on historical data
  • Superficial "webtop" thin-client redesign attacks the form, not the substance, of these problems

These issues, it seems to me, are directly addressed by the strengths of the on-demand model. Network-based architecture of on-demand solutions makes for affordable (and strategic) integration of data sources and tools. Rapid deployment of on-demand solutions builds momentum and achieves user engagement during the critical early stages of adoption.  Deep-dyed security and privilege management in on-demand delivery suits the growing diversity of roles for enterprise analytics users, both inside and outside the organization.

It’s ‘way past time to do something with all the analytic power that companies like Tableau can offer. When I look at the on-demand platform, I see a foundation for building smarter organizations.

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