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Soccer, BI, and Japan

by Cindi Howson  |  July 6, 2015  |  1 Comment

It seems apt timing that the U.S. Women’s Soccer team would face off against Japan just after I returned from my first BI summit in Tokyo. USA crushed them yesterday, in the first minute nonetheless, but four years ago, Japan triumphed.

I like to think that data, like soccer, is a universal language, but how can I think that when Japan has so many profound cultural and business differences from the West? In the U.S., my father taught me a firm handshake is critical for a first greeting, while in Japan, it’s a bow and formally-passed business card. Do such differences influence the BI world?  Here are three interesting questions from BI customers in Japan.

1. Does Japanese Culture Make Data Discovery and Self-Service BI Less Relevant in Japan?

A customer asked me this question during a one-on-one meeting. It’s a valid question, and in Japanese culture, there is a lot of respect for traditional hierarchies. Introductions are made in order of seniority (and women are last even if she’s the boss). Yet data discovery is about empowering information workers at all levels of an organization, not just senior management. This same concern then, applies not just in Japanese companies, but in any company with a traditional hierarchical structure.

In this regard, the company culture can be a barrier to data discovery, but the need for it more related to the reality of the business environment. Japanese businesses, like U.S. businesses, need agility to be more competitive. Data discovery enables that. As a proof point, the premier sponsors of the BI summit in Japan were Qlik and Tableau. A local Tableau rep told me sales have grown 200% in Japan in the last year alone. (The company does not break out revenues by country in its annual report, but confirmed the growth by email and in this press release).

Bottom line: the need for agility and thus data discovery crosses cultural boundaries.

 2. Is Tableau Just a Popularity Contest?

I had to wonder if we had a language translation issue with this question, but another customer wondered if the wild success of Tableau was a passing phenomenon: that everyone wants it because it’s popular and people are afraid of missing out on the latest trend. He pointed to the Gartner Hype Cycle and asked, “When is the trough of disillusionment.”  This was a fascinating debate. Some customers are already in the “trough”, and others are in the “enlightenment” and “productivity” phases. The trough is when self-service has degenerated into anarchy or when customers thought they could replace all reporting requirements with Tableau and are encountering the limits in the product. This isn’t a Tableau, problem, of course; it’s about managing expectations and using the right tool for the right use case. So, no, I don’t think it’s just a fad.  “How to Deliver Data Discovery Projects” provides useful tips in ensuring success, or on skipping the “trough.” And if data discovery is not yet part of your BI tool portfolio, here is a note on 8 steps to picking the best one for your company.

What if Amazon Releases a BI Tool?

Amazon Web Services and Redshift are popular in Japan, and just as Amazon has upended book sellers, retailers, and technology hardware providers, it’s interesting to wonder what’s next.  They have made some moves in the advanced analytics, machine learning space with Amazon Machine Learning released earlier this year. It would be interesting to see some of Amazon’s rating and recommendation capabilities in a BI tool, and we have commented on some vendors who offer this in the Critical Capabilities for BI & Analytics report.  But beyond that, I haven’t heard a peep about Amazon in core BI and can’t speculate. With so much data and still so much untapped potential, it’s clear that the BI space continues to attract new entrants from big companies like Salesforce to start ups like Domo, Looker and Beyondcore, to name just a few.

So I guess I do think that BI, like soccer, is a universal language!  On the fun side, a few photos from my trip to Japan ….

Domo Arigato!

Cindi Howson

a quick drive by - wow!

a quick drive by Senso-ji Temple – wow!

Sorry, never mastered the jopsticks

Japanese boxed lunch: Sorry, never mastered the chopsticks

Kimono for the special ocassion!

Kimono for the special ocassion!




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Category: business-analytics  business-intelligence  technology-and-emerging-trends  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Soccer, BI, and Japan

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