Extending Business Intelligence: A Spotlight Q&A with Rony Ross of Panorama Software

Originally published 13 February 2012

BeyeNETWORK Spotlights focus on news, events and products in the business intelligence ecosystem that are poised to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole; on the enterprises that rely on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data warehousing and/or data governance products to understand and act on the vital information that can be gleaned from their data; or on the providers of these mission-critical products.

Presented as Q&A-style articles, these interviews conducted by the BeyeNETWORK present the behind-the-scene view that you won’t read in press releases.

This BeyeNETWORK Spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Rony Ross, CEO of Panorama Software. They discuss the new paradigm of socially enabled, collaborative business intelligence.

Rony, Gartner predicts that by 2013 15% of business intelligence (BI) deployments will combine BI, collaboration, and social software into decision-making environments. Do you agree with that prediction? And if so, can you explain your vision of a collaborative and socially enabled BI system?

Rony Ross: I absolutely agree. Empowering BI with social capabilities is really the next frontier for improving corporate performance. Panorama's vision is also about empowering BI with relevancy based contextual search. When woven into a BI application, these capabilities, the social capabilities with contextual search, represent a quantum leap in the usability and decision-making ability the system provides.

Let me give you an example. Today, when a typical BI user has a problem, he or she either calls somebody, arranges a meeting, sends an instant message or sends an email. There is a process of collaboration with other people about the issue that was found in the BI system. The insight and the process itself – what transpired, what other things were taken into consideration including the insights that were derived and the resolution of the issue – are all happening outside of the BI system and are typically lost without trace for future reference or to build better processes for the organization.

What our system Necto offers is the ability to tie the users into the data and into the insight that is generated in the process. It all becomes one big system, and it really serves the organization in a completely different way.

So from a decision-making perspective, by incorporating both the social aspects and collaboration, we’re really extending what we do with BI today.
Rony Ross: Yes, exactly. We're the first to bring the social component into BI, and all these interactions are really saved at the metadata layer on top of the BI system. People can share and review discussions they had about the data. All discussions are tied into the data. An ad hoc team can be created to resolve issues on the fly. Whether investigating a data item, a table, a graph, or KPI, all these discussions and the notes associated with them all become part of the system. So that's one part, the social part.

But our vision also encompasses what we call contextual search. Contextual search is really about relevancy. It's about understanding the way that people are using the system, comparing it to others and advising people on how they can use the system better. In many respects, what we do is similar to what happens when someone visits Amazon. When people use a particular view or analyze data, Necto suggests other views of the data that may be useful to them. This kind of suggestiveness has opened a completely new frontier in usability, flexibility and decisions that people can reach when working with data.

Based on your response, contextual search really adds a new element to business intelligence. Now that Panorama Necto has been in the market for more than 6 months, can you summarize how Necto changes the business intelligence process?

Rony Ross: First of all, Panorama Necto was really designed and developed from the ground up as a socially enabled and contextual-search enabled BI system with extreme strength in the user interface. It is really a new generation of BI solution that enables users to do things much more effectively, quickly and with greater relevancy.

Necto is built upon three pillars. It's about social intelligence, self-service and automated relevancy insight. This new paradigm delivers a BI system that learns and understands the user's behavior by automatically providing insights and discovering the root cause of problems and opportunities. It also offers a true collaborative decision-making platform for the enterprise by enabling ad hoc groups with a common interest to become a social insight-generating network across the entire enterprise.

Rony, the real trick for every organization is to use the right information, the right way for the right reason. Do you believe social BI will really work even if users don't understand what information they should be looking for?

Rony Ross: One of the main issues that social BI addresses is about users that know that they need information, know that it's out there, know others have it, but don't know how to get it themselves. Typical BI users today have access to hundreds of news items, and dashboards and KPIs, but they don’t know what is relevant for them. With a system like Necto, they can tell which ones are relevant, which ones are useful for others, and therefore make better decisions and use the system much more efficiently.

Rony, when I look at how people work today, they're very accustomed to working with dashboards and reports. Do you think they'll be more comfortable staying with the type of BI they already know or do you feel they're going to be willing and interested in accepting this new paradigm of socially enabled BI?

Rony Ross: The socially enabled paradigm of Necto is really the same type of BI system that we used to have before with dashboards, views, tables, graphs and KPIs, but enriched with additional capabilities like the social bar. The social bar indicates the other people in the organization that the system finds are relevant to the view or dashboard that a user is working on. Or the social bar may be the people that a user has decided he or she wants to collaborate with. With the use of the social bar, users can drag people on top of an issue, create an ad hoc group and open a discussion pane to start collaborating in the context of the information. Everything else is really the same, but it’s richer and more powerful.

Additionally, Necto has buttons that enable users to get advice from the system on what else they can do. The system can advise them not only about other users who consume the same information, but also advise what other views may be relevant in the context of what the user is looking at today – for example, the other views people have used when they worked on the same issue. Users receive a lot of relevant suggestions from the system.

We also provide a very powerful cause-and-effect feature. When users begin working on a problem, they can ask the system to analyze the root causes of the issue, and the system makes a suggestion to them.

All of these tools are embedded in a very familiar and easy-to-use BI environment. Our customers tell us that the transition to this new system is extremely easy. We have had very significant adoption rates from a lot of customers from different domains, and they find Necto extremely useful and particularly valuable to their organizations. They see how the users of the system can really improve the performance of the organization.

What do you feel are the greatest benefits for your customers that have adopted Necto? Is it just that collaboration will make their jobs easier or are there actual bottom-line benefits that may result from a Necto implementation?

Rony Ross: We actually see a bottom-line type of result. First of all, what we see is that the decision window – the time between discovery of an issue and its resolution – becomes shorter. That's very critical because the time to react is getting shorter and shorter in all the business aspects of today’s organizations. With the strong suggestive capabilities of the Necto system, the faster collaboration with others and the easier and more relevant algorithms, the system really shortens the decision time. It also improves the quality of the decisions because people today can accept more information, and they can more quickly find reports and views that are relevant to the issues they are analyzing. Therefore, they make decisions based on more information as well as on more interaction with others, and the quality of the decision is improved.

Another thing that we see is that the proficiency of the average user in using BI is increased. Typically today, with all types of BI systems people eventually limit themselves to a couple of familiar reports, views, or dashboards because they don't really have the time to investigate what other aspects of the system can be useful to them. With Necto, because the system is suggestive and because you can follow others and understand from others how to get through the system, the proficiency of the average user is improved.

Typically, the organizations that deploy a system that is socially enabled with contextual search have a wider distribution of users. That’s because a system like Necto is easier to learn, much more friendly, more intuitive, and users can learn a lot from the experience of others without having to report to training sessions, or education programs, or be reminded again and again what is relevant and how they use it. Necto is really self-guiding in so many respects that is much easier to consume.

So Rony if I implemented Necto, does it take a certain period of time for it to become contextually aware?

Rony Ross: It typically takes a few days for the system to be richer and more powerful with the information that is collected from the various users. After about two or three weeks of usage, the system reaches a new plateau of information and then it keeps improving as it goes. Necto also enables you to define tags and create tag words of the issues that are relevant for you and for the organization and apply that to the views that you see.

Excellent. Rony, I want to thank you for the time you spent talking to us about the new paradigm of social BI that incorporates collaboration and contextual search.

SOURCE: Extending Business Intelligence: A Spotlight Q&A with Rony Ross of Panorama Software

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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