Looking back now that we’ve reached the one year anniversary of the Take30, we appreciated the opportunity to share our perspective on a range of Business Intelligence (BI) topics with a wide and diverse audience.  

The topics we covered ranged from the strategic and thought provoking, to the deep technical and “how-to” with a consistent focus on how to improve the analytics experience for you and your user community.

Over the course of the year we hosted 28 sessions focused on BI, most were either focused on a specific technology (Amazon QuickSight, IBM Cognos, Microsoft Power BI or Tableau) or a comparison on how these technologies addressed a capability such as Natural Language Query (NLQ), Embedded Analytics or Cloud BI.

Many of our sessions focused on our heritage as the go-to Cognos experts including deep dives into the modern BI features in Cognos Analytics including Data Modules, Data Sets and Explorations.  In one of our most highly anticipated (and highly attended) sessions, Rachel Su from IBM Offering Management joined Ironside to lead an overview of Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 – a role she reprised last month for Cognos Analytics 11.2).

In a number of other sessions, we explored Tableau new features, touched on many of the enterprise capabilities of Power BI and introduced Amazon QuickSight to our audience. 

Creating a Centralized Metadata Model in Power BI (4/16/20)

In our first session of the Take30 series, we explored the concept of shared datasets in Power BI and offered our point of view that, for many organizations who are maturing their Power BI capabilities, shared datasets mapped well to the “traditional” approaches of centralized (and governed) metadata, yet offered a degree of flexibility for decentralized teams to move at their own pace.  (Checkout this Playlist for Power BI)

Cloud BI: A Comparison of Leading Technologies (6/25/20)

As a majority of organizations see Cloud-based analytics as critical to their current and future analytics strategies, we thought it an opportune moment to take our audience through a review of the leading BI tools we work with on a daily basis.  

We reviewed the benefits of Cloud BI, including serverless and subscription-based licensing, then provided a comparison of vendors including Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, IBM Cognos and Amazon QuickSight.  

Amazon QuickSight – New Features (10/1/20)

While relatively new to the BI marketplace, we were excited to continue our focus on Amazon QuickSight and the significant progress the AWS team is making toward a solid enterprise featureset.  

Since that time, the roadmap and feature releases have become even more aligned to the enterprise reporting use case, especially in consideration of the compelling licensing story and scalable serverless architecture on which it is based.  (you may also want to check out this intro to QuickSight session  Introduction to Amazon QuickSight (5/7/20))

Enterprise Reporting: Assessment, Simplification and Migration (2/18/21)

Lastly, we wanted to address a topic that is of increasing prominence in our day to day conversations with clients – that of enterprise reporting migrations.  

In this session, we provided our point of view on the reasons why organizations migrate from their legacy tools, offered perspectives on approaches to migrations and the important pitfalls and lessons learned when considering such an initiative. 

We touched on tooling and accelerators we’ve developed to help those who have embarked on this journey reach their destination more quickly.

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Throughout 2020, the Take30 webinar series gave our BI Experts a new way to connect with our clients and prospects in what was otherwise a challenging year. We confirmed that our participants are not only interested in diving deep into tool functionality, they are looking for guidance in managing multiple BI tools at enterprise scale, and understanding how cloud BI can enhance their analytics capabilities without breaking enterprise reports and functionality which are critical to their business operation.

Looking forward, we are going to explore those and other questions with you as we continue to share our knowledge and provide a mix of content; from the tactical to the strategic, across all the tools we help our clients with on a daily basis.

The Ironside Take30 webinar series premiered on April 16th, 2020, with the goal to share expert dialog across a variety of data and analytics related topics to a wide range of audiences. The series has three primary dialog categories, each hosted by a BI Expert, Data Scientist or Data Advisor. In the past year, we’ve shared best practices with over 200 companies ranging from Fortune 50 to small businesses. Our success has been measured by participants returning and telling a colleague; on average, each unique company attended over six Take30 sessions. 

While some Data Advisor sessions are more technical, the focus is on describing concepts and tools at a less detailed level. We want to give people a sense of how rapidly the data and analytics environment is changing. To that end, the Data Advisor series worked with our partners, including IBM, AWS, Snowflake, Matillion, Precisely and Trifacta, to bring demonstrations of their tools and discuss the impact of their capabilities. We talked about the rapid expansion both of data and of the solution space to move, structure, and analyze that data. 

Most importantly, we had a special series on the Modern Analytics Framework, Ironside’s vision for and approach to a unified approach to insight generation that puts the right data in the hands of the right people. Regardless of your industry, your tools, or your use cases, you need a way to keep your data, users, and processes organized.

“What do you need in your data warehouse?” used to be the chief question asked when thinking about data for analytics. That time is past. Now, a data warehouse is just one possible source of analytics. Most organizations have so much data that building a warehouse to contain all of it would be impossible. At the same time, data lakes have emerged as a popular option. They can easily hold vast amounts of data regardless of structure or source. But that doesn’t mean the data is easy to analyze. 

And just as there’s no longer a single question to ask about structuring data, there’s no longer just one voice asking the question. Data scientists and data engineers are among the many personas that have emerged as consumers of data. Each has their own toolset(s) and preferences for how data should look for their purposes. 

All of this diversity demands a more distributed approach to ingesting, transforming and storing data – as well as robust and flexible governance to manage it. All of the topics covered in the past year of Take30 with a Data Advisor touch on these points, and on Ironside’s goal to help you make better decisions using your data.  Here are five of the 27 Data Advisor sessions we hosted this year: 

  • Modern Analytics Framework: Series Summary  (7/30/20-9/1/21) – This 6-part series covers all aspects of Ironside’s Modern Analytics Framework: overall concepts, assessment and design, governance, identification of user personas, implementation, and usage. If you are looking to upgrade your existing analytics environment, or creating one for the first time, this is an essential series, and one that Ironside will be expanding on in 2021.

  • Snowflake as a Data Wrangling Sandbox (6/3/20) – Snowflake is a tremendous cloud database platform for data storage and transformation. Its complete separation of compute and storage allows for many usage scenarios, and most importantly for easily scalability based on volume of data and consumption. Nirav Valia (from Ironside’s Information Management practice) presents on one common Snowflake use case: using Snowflake as a data wrangling sandbox. Data wrangling typically involves unpredictable consumption patterns and creation of new data sets, as an analyst seeks to discover new insights or answer new questions by manipulating data sets. Snowflake’s power and flexibility easily handles these types of activities without requiring up-front investment or significant recurring costs. It’s easy to create transformations, let them run, then let the data sit until it is needed again. (If you are interested in Snowflake, also consider our later Take30 Snowflake: Best Practices (9/24/20), including commentary from a Snowflake engineer.) 

  • What is Analytics Modernization? How can Data Prep Accelerate It? (with Trifacta) (2/4/21) – Toward the end of our first year of Take 30s, we held a panel, hosted by Monte Montemayor of Trifacta, around data prep and accelerating analytics modernization. As I mentioned earlier, there is a tremendous amount of data available today – but getting it analytics-ready is a huge challenge. Tools like Trifacta (known as Advanced Data Prep, or ADP, in the IBM world) are extremely useful for giving analysts and business users the ability to visualize and address data quality issues in an automated fashion. This is useful for data science, dashboarding, data warehouses – any place where data is consumed. (If you are interested in Data Prep, check out IBM Advanced Data Prep in Action (7/8/20) and Data Wrangling made Simple and Flexible with Trifacta (5/6/20))

  • A Data Warehousing Perspective: What is IBM Cloud Pak™ for Data? (5/27/20) – IBM has created a single platform for data and analytics that works across cloud vendors and on-premise. If you want to be able to shift workload between local nodes and the cloud easily, this is the solution for you. In this Take30, we provide an overview of the technologies that make Cloud Pak for Data possible, and how you can take advantage of them. (We also have a session Netezza is back, and in the cloud (7/23/20) discussing Netezza, one of the many technologies available on the Cloud Pak platform)

  • A Data Strategy to Empower Analytics in Higher Ed (7/1/20) – Occasionally, we have the opportunity to host an industry-specific Take30, and where possible, we have clients join us. Northeastern University joins this Higher Ed focused Take30 to discuss their approach taken with Ironside in developing a multi-year roadmap. This was geared towards increasing the “democratization of data and analytics” by establishing the organizational foundation, technology stack and governance plan necessary to grow self service throughout the institution. Our discussion highlights the particular challenges of a decentralized, highly autonomous structure, and shared the value of a data science pilot in the admissions area executed during the strategy engagement to generate tangible results.

2020 was a unique year. At Ironside, it gave us the opportunity to reach out to customers in a new way – one that we are continuing into 2021. We look forward to more detailed sessions on the Modern Analytics Framework, and on trends and tools that we see gaining prominence. 

After a year of delivering these sessions, we’ve realized that customers are not only looking for specific solutions, but for a sense of where the analytics world is going. Which cloud platforms make the most sense? What transformation and data wrangling tools are the most useful? Should I redesign my warehouse or just add a data lake? We look forward to exploring those and other questions with you.

Ironside, a Boston enterprise data and analytics service firm, announced this week the appointment of Paul Hardy to Executive Vice President of Services. He has been promoted to this role following his tenure as Vice President of Advisory Services. In his new role, Paul will oversee all of Ironside’s service practice areas: Data Advisory, Information Management, Business Analytics, Advanced Analytics & AI, and Managed Services. Paul will also join Ironside’s executive leadership team.

“Since joining the team in 2019, Paul has earned immense respect from his Ironside colleagues and clients. His thought leadership has helped many organizations we work with transform. Bringing Paul onto our Leadership Team will accelerate our ability to assist our clients as they manage, govern and flourish with the abundance of data accessible in a well-architected analytics strategy,” said Ironside CEO Tim Kreytak.

Ironside’s team is thrilled to have Paul assume this role. His skills will complement Ironside’s focus to continue our strong reputation for client-focused collaboration, and lead his team of senior consultants in helping clients achieve their modern analytic vision. Ironside’s pragmatic consultation approach helps clients take a step-wise approach to getting their data and analytics to a better place — while reducing risks and costs and extracting maximum value along the way. Our team supports clients on their ongoing journey, helping them address today’s needs while paving the way ahead for tomorrow’s new demands.

Hardy shares that he is looking forward to the new opportunities 2021 will bring:

“The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies and increased clients’ appetites for pursuing new competitive differentiators.  Analytics and artificial intelligence are proving to be the most leveraged digital tools for creating leaps in business value from today’s growing proliferation of data, enabled by new, agile platforms and tools. With 20 years of experience, Ironside has unmatched abilities to develop those differentiators and transform our clients’ analytic infrastructure and organizations to create sustainable advantage and cultural change.  I’m thrilled to be leading our team of experts in this pursuit.”

About Paul Hardy

Paul brings over twenty-five years of consulting and P&L experience, selling and delivering transformation services encompassing strategy, people, process, partnerships and technology to clients of all sizes and across multiple industries. Prior to Ironside, Paul was a partner and practice leader of the IT Strategy practice at Information Services Group (ISG) where he transitioned the team for digital revenue expansion, developed digital strategy and methodologies for successful digital transformation engagements (e.g. cloud computing, automation/RPA, AI, IOT, Agility, DevOps, etc.)

Prior to that, he had led multi-tower ITO (application and infrastructure) and BPO transformation engagements and sourcing transactions. Paul had P&L responsibility for the Outsourcing Advisory practice at Alsbridge, and co-led post-acquisition integration of previously competitive practices when acquired by ISG in December 2016.  He also led the Financial Services Business at Perot Systems – a technology outsourcer – and was a start-up CEO in the B2B e-procurement marketplace.

Paul holds a BS in Systems Engineering from University of Arizona, and a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Cornell, as well as a MBA from The Wharton School.

About Ironside

Founded in 1999, Ironside is an enterprise data & analytics solution provider and system integrator. With decades of expertise, we guide businesses translating goals and challenges with expert consultation and technology solutions that enable insightful analysis, data-driven decision making, and continued success. Our team will help you structure, integrate and augment your data, while transforming your analytic environment and improving governance.

As we enter into the Independence Holiday weekend, I wanted to drop a quick note. It’s hard to believe three months have passed since my last letter. The world is evolving daily and technology continues to play a critical role in how we all connect, track information and communicate worldwide. Despite the shift toward working remotely, the executive team and I continue to be impressed with the level of productivity, cohesiveness, employee engagement and strength as an organization that we have seen demonstrated by our team. 

Here are a few highlights:

Teamwork. My team has pointed out how their interaction with each other has expanded — collaboratively tackling projects, sharing knowledge to prepare for webinars, and helping clients deal with COVID-19’s impact on their data and business analytics. We’ve hosted weekly Town Hall forums and internal Step competitions that have promoted teamwork company-wide.Under our Strategies for Success free content offerings to our clients, we’ve rallied around our Take30 Series. 

These sessions hosted by Ironside’s Data Science, Data Advisor and Business Intelligence Leads, have made it important for Senior Consultants, Partners and Clients to come together to offer the best of our thinking. The planning and delivery has been mutually beneficial for our team and the ever-growing number of participants who we have shared 30 minutes together, multiple times per week since the start of the pandemic.

Education. This unprecedented time when we are not traveling to clients has offered a time for our consultants to learn additional skill sets and to expand their certifications. One of the greatest values we offer to our clients is understanding best practices related to integration aspects between our key partners: IBM, AWS, Precisely, Microsoft, Trifacta, Tableau, DataRobot, Snowflake, Alteryx, Matillion and Alation. For us, to continue to excel with these partners — cross-training between our Business Intelligence, Information Management and Data Science practices on our most utilized tools — has created many “a-ha” moments toward streamlining our delivery services.

Client Engagements. Despite the sunsetting of “business as usual” for now, Ironside’s business is strong. COVID-19 has impacted businesses in various ways, whether they are operating and accessing data differently or needing to measure the impact of the global environment on their businesses’ analytics. Perhaps now, more than ever, the demand for information and analytics is a “must-have” versus a “nice-to-have.” Some of our clients have found themselves busier than ever and racing to keep up with the demand for new analytics and reports. Other clients are compelled to be more hands-on with analytics that used to be automated by machine learning models that have been rendered invalid. In these cases and beyond, Ironside’s Analytics Assurance Service is here to help. Our team’s expertise is being leveraged for immediate, short term assistance to support organizations running as efficiently as possible, allowing clients to use their own skills for other tasks to avoid stifling tradeoffs. 

Thank you for your continued relationship with our team. From myself and my team to you and yours, we wish you a wonderful Independence Day. Stay safe and remain strong, both in business and in health.

Best,
Tim

The world has changed dramatically over the course of a single month, and companies are struggling even more with things that have historically challenged them:

  • Finding the best people to run, build and innovate on their analytics tools and data
  • Making these environments accessible to employees in a work-at-home model

In this Forbes article, Louis Columbus cites a recent Dresner survey that shows up to 89% of companies are seeing a hit to their BI and Analytics budgets due to COVID-19. The survey includes these two recommendations:

Recommendation #1

Invest in business intelligence (BI) and analytics as a means of understanding and executing with the change landscape.

Recommendation #2

Consider moving BI and analytical applications to third-party cloud infrastructure to accommodate employees working from home.


89% of companies are seeing a hit to their BI and Analytics budgets due to COVID-19.


We’re here to help you explore your options.

Now that the role of analytics is more important than ever to a company’s success, analytics leaders are again being asked to do much more with much less — all while companies are experiencing staff reductions, navigating the complexities of moving to a work-from-home model, and struggling to onboard permanent hires.

To address these short-term shortages (and potentially longer-term budget impacts), companies are naturally evaluating whether leveraging a managed-service approach — wholly or even just in part— can help them fill their skills gap while also reducing their overall spend.

As they weigh this decision, cost, technical expertise, market uncertainty and the effectiveness of going to a remote-work model are all top-of-mind. Here’s how these factors might affect your plans going forward:

Factor 1: Cost

As the Dresner number showed, most analytics teams need to reduce spend. Doing this mid-year is never easy, and usually comes at the expense of delayed or canceled projects, delayed or cancelled hiring, and possibly even staff reductions. All of these decrease a company’s analytics capabilities, which in turn decreases its ability to make the right business decisions at a critical time. A managed services approach to meeting critical analytics needs, even just to address a short-term skills gap, can provide valuable resources in a highly flexible way, while saving companies significant money over hiring staff and traditional consulting models.

Factor 2: Technical Expertise

A decade ago, your options for analytics tools and platforms were limited to a handful of popular technologies. Today even small departments use many different tools. We have seen organizations utilizing AWS, Azure, and private datacenters. Oracle, SQL Server, Redshift all at the same company? Yes, we have seen that as well. Some of our customers maintain more than five BI tools. At some point you have to ask: Can we hire and support the expertise necessary to run all these tools effectively? Can we find and hire a jack-of-all trades?

In a managed services model, companies can leverage true experts across a wide range of technology while varying the extent to which they use those resources at any particular time. As a result, companies get the benefit of a pool of resources in a way that a traditional hiring approach simply cannot practically provide.

Factor 3: Effectiveness of Remote Work Engagement

If you weren’t working remotely before, you probably are now. Companies are working to rapidly improve their processes and technologies to adjust to a new normal while maintaining productivity.

Managed service resourcing models have been delivering value remotely for years, using tools and processes that ensure productivity. Current events have not affected these models, therefore making them an ideal solution for companies  trying to figure out the best way to work at home.

Times are changing. We’re ready!

Ironside has traditionally offered Managed Services, to care for and maintain customer platforms and applications, and consulting services, to assist in BI and Analytics development.

Companies can leverage our Analytics Assurance Services temporarily, for a longer period of time to address specific skills gaps, or to establish a cloud environment to support remote analytic processes.

With Ironside, you can improve your data analytics within your new constraints, while reducing your costs. We’d love to show you how.

Contact us today at: Here2Help@IronsideGroup.com

Over the past week, I’ve spoken to a number of customers and partners who are adjusting to the ever-evolving reality of life during COVID-19. Beyond the many ways it has affected their personal lives and families, we’ve also discussed how it has impacted their jobs, and the role of analytics in the success of their organizations.

During these conversations, a few consistent themes have emerged from the people responsible for delivering reporting and analytics to their user communities:

  • Reliability: Continuing to deliver business as usual content despite a suddenly remote workforce
  • Resiliency: Hardening existing systems and processes to ensure continuity and security
  • Efficiency: Delivering maximum value even in the midst of a short-term business downturn
  • Innovation: Finding new ways to leverage data to address emerging challenges in areas such as supply chain, customer service, pricing optimization, marketing, and others.

While none of these topics are new to those of us in analytics, the new reality brought on by COVID-19 has made it even more important for us to succeed in every area. In an excellent Forbes article, Alteryx CEO Dean Stoecker discusses the importance and relevance of analytics professionals in driving success for their organizations in these trying times.

As he correctly concludes,

“If anyone is prepared to tackle the world’s most complex business and societal challenges—in this case, a global pandemic—it is the analytic community.”

We’re all in this together.

At Ironside, we’re taking that challenge to heart and looking at how we, too, can refocus our talents to better help our customers. Our upcoming series, Strategies for Success During Uncertain Times, will cover the steps we’re taking to help our partners weather this storm.

As of today, we’re:

  • Holding on-demand “Coffee Breaks” with some of our most experienced SMEs
  • Increasing remote trainings on key technologies
  • Rolling out short-term hosted platforms to accelerate model development, especially for predictive analytics
  • Expanding our managed-services capabilities for platforms and applications, even for short-term demand
  • Increasing our investment in off-shore capabilities to reduce costs and expand coverage models and other areas, too

Additionally, we are offering more short-term staffing options to our customers. Read Depend on Ironside for your data and analytics bench for short- and long-term success for more about these services.

We’re here to help.

At Ironside, we agree that the analytics community is uniquely-positioned to help our organizations weather the COVID-19 storm, and we’re committed to making our customers and partners as successful as possible.

We look forward to speaking with you about your immediate needs, and continuing the conversation on these and other timely topics.

Contact us today at: Here2Help@IronsideGroup.com

Ironside has historically focused on longer-term, project- or services-based staffing. However, we understand that what you may need most now is immediate, on-demand access to highly-experienced professionals.

To address that critical need, we’re making some of our top people available for short-term work. If you have even the most temporary and immediate need to address capacity constraints, delayed hiring, budget limits, or just to knock a few items off of your to-do list, we can assist with a flexible, remote, talented, and cost-effective pool of professionals. Our areas of expertise include:

  • IBM Analytics portfolio including Cognos, Watson, Netezza and others
  • BI tools including Tableau, Power BI, QuickSight and others
  • Cloud-native technologies on AWS and Microsoft
  • Leading data wrangling, management, and catalog tools
  • Top AI and AML technologies from DataRobot, AWS, and more

The world may be up in the air, but we understand that it has to be business as usual for our clients. We’re here to help you with that.

Contact us today at: Here2Help@IronsideGroup.com

When you think about the different ways that data gets used in your company, what comes to mind?

You surely have some executive dashboards, and some quarterly reports. There might be a reporting portal containing everything that IT created for anyone within the past decade.

Read more

When asked “What’s your data strategy?” do you reply “We’re getting Hadoop…” or “We just hired a data scientist…” or “If we only had a data lake, all our problems would be solved…”? Plotting a good data strategy requires more than buying a tool, hiring a resource, or adding a component to your architecture. You need something to describe:

  • the goals you are trying to achieve,
  • the stakeholders you are trying to serve, and
  • the internal capabilities required to satisfy those stakeholders and achieve those goals

Read more

Any discussion of Master Data Management automatically includes a discussion of Data Governance. The two go hand in hand. Successful MDM implementations require understanding data ownership, stewardship, and security, as well as determining business rules to be applied to the data. Specific business rules usually include rules for matching and consolidating data items as well as data quality checks. Read more