I'm a "big data" guy, in the broadest, most aggressively futuristic sense of the term. So when Tom Davenport opened the TDWI keynote saying he doesn't like the Kardashians and he doesn't like the term "big data," I was alarmed. Was this going to be another grandpa-style lecture on how business intelligence and data warehousing didn't need any of them new-fangled gizmos? You know the spiel, "Back in my day we did analytics on the way to school, for 10 miles, uphill both ways, in the snow, without shoes, and we were happy to do it!" When he started on his history of decision support analytics, I began to wonder if there there any earlier flights available out of Las Vegas that day....
Then a curious thing happened. I doubted my instincts. Mankind has been searching for the answers to life's big questions since long before I was born. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose and all that jazz. Maybe kicking it old school with the BI and data warehouse historians would be all we needed. Maybe hadoop is mostly hype. Maybe NoSQL is mostly NoGood.
My latest research report showed that roughly 75% of respondents were actually satisfied or very satisfied with their primary BI and analytics vendor, so if it ain't broke, you don't change horses, right?
Nah, that wasn't his point either, and I don't believe it anyway. But the cultural change associated with moving from a world of manual database index tuning, going through extreme ETL exercises, and concocting rigid data controls to the new world of playing big, fast, and loose is more significant than most people consciously recognize. New products impact people and processes, yet the status quo in this industry can't last forever, as much as traditional vendors might wish it. Better, faster, cheaper technologies will complement existing tools and fill in gaps in functionality. Innovative blue ocean strategies will win out, probably sooner than most expect.
The good news is that even the people proud of doing analytics for decades clearly feel the changing winds, and they are coming to events like TDWI not to relive old glories and bemoan the pace of change, but rather to level up their game. These folks aren't generally the same audience as Strata attendees, but nor are they new tech-fearing ostrichs. And they'll all go home more educated, more hip, and more ready to put into practice what they learned, with an appreciation of how it builds on, not eradicates the past.