Recently, Birst CEO Jay Larson sat down to discuss the value of big data, why speed is key and the current state of the marketplace. Here is a snapshot of his insights into the importance of becoming a data driven organization.

The Value of Big Data

Engaging in a conversation about the definition of big data isn’t particularly fruitful. I generally try to stay away from this topic. I’m much less concerned about defining big data than discussing how companies can leverage their data as an asset and use it to drive performance improvement and to win in the marketplace. Every company has data and a lot of it. The key is what you do with it and how you become a data-driven organization. How do you extract value? How do you make sense of data? I would contrast big data with cloud-based applications, on-premise applications and data warehouses. The right question isn’t what are you doing with big data. The right question is how are you leveraging all of your data sources, consolidating them and bringing all of your data together in a sensible way. If you want to drive process improvement, you have to be able to combine data from multiple systems and data sources including your data warehouse. That’s the big action in this space, and that’s what we’re focused on. Not just making sense of big data, but combining elements of big data with data from other sources in a way that gives you a holistic view of what’s going on in your company. That’s what people really want and that’s what we deliver at Birst.

The Importance of Speed in BI

Today it’s all about how do we provide better, faster and more cost effective service to businesses. I think that’s the starting point for everything. IT systems don’t exist for the goodness of IT systems. They exist to provide service and capability to the business so the business can compete and win in the marketplace. And in the marketplace what do we see? It’s more competitive than ever. There’s more data than ever and timeframes have been massively compressed. When I think about the companies we work with, it’s clear that they don’t have a year to figure out a business problem. Business leaders need to go in, assess the situation and roll out a change program right now! I’ve been in this new position at Birst now for a short period of time and people on my board are already asking me: “So what are you going to do?” Let’s stop discussing and start doing! If you’re rolling out an IT system that takes more than a year, chances are you’re doing that not for your benefit but for the benefit of your successor because you’re not going to be around to see the goodness that the system produces.

Everything is about speed. It needs to be done right now, and I think that’s the big change. We have people that are more analytical who want to better leverage data and make every decision a fact-based decision. Leaders in every function believe in the notion that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it and they want to move fast. The companies that win are the companies that know not only how to execute, but also how to execute the fastest.

Implementing Data-Driven Initiatives:

There is a resistance to change in every business. Resistance to change has very little to do with us and very much to do with organizations and the people in those organization. With Birst, we mitigate risk and resistance to change by starting with a single project and then moving on to additional projects once the first one is successful. Typically, our relationships don’t get started because somebody decides they’re going to drive a transformation in their business changing everything right now and “go big” right out of the gate. Instead, the way we get started is by addressing one problem that goes very well, then we address another problem that goes very well. All of sudden people realize there is a broader application of this technology and that the more it’s applied, the bigger the benefits. People realize that doing something on an enterprise-wide scale with Birst makes a ton of sense. That reduces the resistance to change because it isn’t one giant change, but rather it’s a series of smaller steps and every step is predicated on success in the previous step. By doing this, we have built a trusted advisor relationship and have become a known vendor built on proven success. That takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the equation, and it makes people more comfortable with doing a large-scale Birst project because they have already done Birst projects successfully in other parts of their business.

Stay tuned for part two in the series where Jay talks about Birst’s role in today’s marketplace and where the company is headed.