A Data Architecture for Collaborative Enterprise Analytics

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 10:00

Our previous blog on the Rise of Enterprise Analytics (EA) created quite a stir. Many readers had strong reactions both for and against our perspective. Several pointed comments about the continued importance of centralized, enterprise data repositories (lakes, warehouses, marts) gave us pause. To summarize: “ How dare you even consider throwing away years of best practice data design and engineering and return us to an age of inconsistent spreadmarts and siloed Access databases. You should be ashamed!”

The critics will be heartened to learn we’re not advocating giving up entirely on IT-managed enterprise data. On the contrary, we believe the adoption of Enterprise Analytics mandates even more attention to and extension of best practice enterprise data management and engineering.

The Power of Analytic Producers Is Reforming How IT Manages Data

The subtle differentiation we’re making is between the data itself, and the analytics on that data. EA is about shifting analytic production toward those in the organization who drive innovation from data, i.e. the Analytic Producers. Analytic Producers are typically business analysts, data scientists and others responsible for measuring and forecasting performance and identifying new, data-driven products and opportunities.

Most of our recent projects have revolved on the enablement of Enterprise Analytics through a modern, extensible data architecture. One that relies on a foundation of governed dimensional data warehousing and modern big data lakes, while simultaneously enabling analysts to create and blend their own datasets. As Analytics Producers find value in adjunct datasets, that data is then integrated into what we call the “enterprise data ecosystem” (EDE). In contrast to the traditional EBI ecosystem, the vitality of the EDE is driven by business priorities and analytic innovations -- not the other way around.

 

The picture above depicts how the old EBI and new EA worlds integrate. The blue elements should look very familiar to EBI colleagues. This is the domain of stewarded enterprise data and standardized access mechanisms for “Analytics Consumers”. Most are probably familiar with the classic reporting, OLAP and dashboards provided by legacy BI vendors.

New Analytics Technologies Have Also Upset Traditional Data Semantic Governance

In addition to core EBI, we’ve added boxes for the increasingly prevalent statistical tools and libraries such as R, Python and Spark used by data scientists. Further, analytical apps built with R/Shiny, Qlik, Tableau, etc. provide tailored, managed access to data via highly visual and ubiquitous web and mobile interfaces. Indeed, Inquidia’s business is now more focused on analytical app dev than it is on dashboards and reports enabled via legacy commercial EBI tools. (More on this in an upcoming blog…)

The orange elements of the diagram depict new architectural elements driven by Enterprise Analytics clients. Ad-hoc data discovery and the ability to experiment with new data sources drives the need. Depending on the Analytics Producer, the new data sources range from simple spreadsheets to data scraped from the web -- and curated using agile programming languages like Python, R, Alteryx and even freely-available ETL software such as Pentaho Data Integration. Additionally, for some of our clients, we help create “data sandboxes” where Analytics Producers combine extracts (we often are asked to build) of enterprise data with their new, embellishing datasets for ease of blending.

A Modern Approach to Collaborative Enterprise Analytics Yields Benefits for Analysts and IT

Central to EA is the ability for Analytic Producers to share discoveries and collaborate. The Shared Analytics Results Repository provides this functionality. Many of our clients enable this sharing using Tableau server, though the same results could be attained through other low cost approaches including Tableau desktop with file sharing, internal wikis, Google Drive & Docs, etc. There’s certainly no need to reinvent collaboration technology.

Inevitably, a new “hot” analytic will emerge from EA initiatives -- one that is in demand by traditional Analytics Consumers. This is where expert enterprise data architecture and engineering is critical -- and often where data integration expertise plays a helping role. The gray boxes depict the escalation process with outputs detailing new data integration and semantic requirements. The orange “New Sources” box represents the extensibility of the data ecosystem. Depending on the nature of the data, it may land in the classic data warehouse or become part of the big data lake (e.g. Hadoop). The orange “Integrated User Models” box shows the extension of the enterprise semantic driven by the newly integrated data. These data may manifest in cubes, ad-hoc report metadata, or new analytical app requirements.

We hope this deeper dive into the nature of emerging Enterprise Analytics will allay fears of our colleagues that data architecture and engineering are no longer critical. The revolutionary concept of EA is not rampant decentralization of enterprise data, but rather an acknowledgement that for many business organizations (and perhaps yours), significant analytic expertise resides outside of IT. These analytics constituents must be serviced with more flexibility and agility for an enterprise that wishes to drive innovation through analytics.

Contact us today to find out how Inquidia can show you how to collect, integrate and enrich your data. We do data. You can, too.

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