As part of our ongoing quarterly editorial campaign at Solutions Review, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Ulrik Pederson, Chief Operating Officer at TARGIT, regarding our June BI topic of real-time analytics. As an industry insider, Ulrik was able to provide some great insights in our Q&A discussion.
As part of our Buyers Matrix Report, we polled the top-28 BI companies, and only 13 of them offer real-time capabilities. Why do you think that is?
“I think it’s because the technology has to catch up with the demand. The data warehouse world has been preached for decades now, so I don’t think it’s all on the vendors to just necessarily change and follow the new trend overnight. It may not make sense for all the vendors. If I were just catering to the finance department, real-time wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Vendors playing in a more traditional space probably don’t see the demand in the market. That’s why they don’t offer it, it doesn’t make sense for all of them.”
What are the technology barriers to deploying real-time?
“Memory and solid state drives have fallen so much in price, and at the same time, offer much more in terms of capacity and performance. That’s breaking down some of those barriers. If you have thousands of users on a system all running real-time analysis, especially if you believe in giving each user the freedom to pull and query whatever they would like to make the best decision in their case, then you still have that risk of bogging down the system with a complex query. If you’re not using narrow databases then you’re already getting down to something that’s near real-time. You know, minutes as opposed to seconds. Just know that you will pay a premium if everything is real-time. So there is a cost benefit that goes into it I believe.
I think today, the barriers are much more cultural than technological. If you don’t change the way you use the data and you allow decisions to be made in that way, then you don’t gain an advantage by having it in real-time. If you are made aware of an issue, an opportunity, in real-time and still have to go through a traditional, hierarchical process in your decision-making, then you’ve just spent a lot of money on technology and haven’t changed anything culturally.
I think the biggest barrier is people. I don’t think it’s pricing or technology. I think there is a legitimate fear that you could be using data to jump to the wrong conclusions. Sometimes just acting on the first and what you think is best information might not be right and if you don’t have the experience to put it in the right context, then it might actually drive bad decisions. It is a loaded gun; if you don’t know the right way to point it then it can certainly hurt you.”
Once IoT is officially “here”, will we see a spike in real-time implementation?
“I really think it will. If I look at our customer base, one of the areas we have a pretty good footprint in is heavy machinery. Caterpillar dealers, those kinds of industries. In that industry, each machine is maybe a quarter-million dollars to operate and they are already picking up so many data points that are not really being analyzed and used to their full extent.
I think with those machines already being enabled to dump that information into a data repository, analyze, and even display the analytics inside of the monitors of the machine, I think that will definitely drive the demand for real-time BI, especially when you marry it with more prescriptive analytics. You might actually prevent many thousands of dollars worth of spending by getting the machine to maintain itself before it breaks down; before the damage has been done. We probably can’t even imagine how [IoT and real-time analytics] will be used together going forward.”
Is real-time analytics really real-time? (Say that three times fast)
“TARGIT can offer truly real-time, but there’s a cost to it. We typically only offer true real-time on a fraction of the data that you want to analyze. At least from our perspective, that model is fairly simple, and you’re not having to do a lot of aggregation and calculation on the fly, even though you can do that at more of a rapid pace. You’re still risking a system bog down if you do so. Through TARGIT’s back-end integration with Microsoft SQL tools, we can also do a lot of deployments that are near real-time; 2, 5, 15 minutes delayed, and in many cases that is just as good. If it’s more complex, then we typically utilize the SQL back-end to satisfy the demands. If it’s less complex then we can use our own technologies with our own server capabilities. There are probably a lot of vendors who are saying that what they offer is so close to real-time that they can justify calling it that.”
What industries and for what purposes are your customers utilizing your real-time capabilities for?
“I think we see much more creativity from our customers today than we did just three years ago. A few years ago we could kind of bring the ideas to them. Now it’s the other way around, they bring things to us that we didn’t even think about. One cool thing one of our customers who generates revenue from the sale of parking spaces is doing is letting the analytics decide how much the next available parking spot will cost, depending on traffic and how fast the lot is filling. In theory, they get the optimum price for each parking space. So it’s becoming one of those things where, like Expedia, the analytics makes the prices go up and down. That’s what we are seeing from one of our customers, something that we may not have thought of, but their creativity and our technology has led to the demand for real-time.”
On a basic level, what can companies gain by having the ability to react to events as they happen?
I think that’s really where you can get a competitive advantage. Like I was eluding to, it’s more cultural barriers than anything else that will stop you from utilizing that advantage. If you can get information in real-time that can make you price your products better or get things out the door when you see a trend, that’s an advantage. If you have that information and you use it smart, and you empower the decisions on a decentralized level then I think it really ups your competitive advantage. But the culture needs to be impacted, and those organizations that can succeed in that I believe will put these benefits to greater use.
Ulrik Pederson has been with TARGIT since 1999 and currently holds the position of Chief Operating Officer. He has tackled the challenge of penetrating the North American market with TARGIT’s leading business intelligence and analytics solution. Originally from Denmark, Ulrik now calls Florida home, and has helped to grow the organization from a startup team of 3 people to 25 highly skilled and dedicated individuals. TARGIT’s North American clients have expanded, and the company’s goal is to “revolutionize data discovery.” Ulrik holds a Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration, B2B Marketing from Aalborg University.