I recently had both the privilege and pleasure to do a deep dive into the cold and warm BI waters in Russia and Israel. Cold – because some of my experiences were sobering. Warm – because the reception could not have been more pleasant. My presentations were well attended (sponsored by www.in4media.ru in Russia and www.matrix.co.il in Israel), showing high levels of BI interest, adoption, experience, and expertise.  Challenges remain the same, as Russian and Israeli businesses struggle with BI governance, ownership, SDLC and PMO methodologies, data, and app integration just like the rest of the world. I spent long evening hours with a large global company in Israel that grew rapidly by M&A and is struggling with multiple strategic challenges: centralize or localize BI, vendor selection, end user empowerment, etc. Sound familiar?

But it was not all business as usual. A few interesting regional peculiarities did come out. For example, the "BI as a key competitive differentiator" message fell on mostly deaf ears in Russia, as Russian companies don't really compete against each other. Territories, brands, markets, and spheres of influence are handed top down from the government or negotiated in high-level deals behind closed doors. That is not to say, however, that BI in Russia is only used for reporting – multiple businesses are pushing BI to the limits such as advanced customer segmentation for better upsell/cross-sell rates. 

I was also pleasantly surprised and impressed a few times (and for those of you who know me well, you know that it's pretty hard to impress the old veteran):

  • BI clients in Russia do not have to go far for BI expertise and software. Prognoz is a local vendor providing top-notch BI services, building BI solutions across multiple industries. They base their solutions on their own homegrown BI platform that is mature enough to be productized, which is what the vendor is doing right now.
  • A leading Russian systems integrator truly impressed me with the only ETL/DW solution based entirely on the Hadoop stack designed for a mission-critical app that I have personally seen. Most of the other Hadoop-based BI solutions that usually come across my desk are mostly for sales, marketing, brand management, and other nice-to-haves, not mission-critical apps. I am under NDA, so I can't reveal the application or even the industry, but please believe me when I say that this one is as mission-critical, large enterprise production-level app as anything I've seen. The SI seems to have addressed most of the Hadoop shortcomings, such as transaction controls, multiphase commits, disaster recovery, etc. Very impressive. Hope it goes public with this soon and makes the solution available to other clients.
  • Last but not least. Not really a surprise, as Panorama Software briefed me about this functionality a while back, but seeing "suggestive BI" in action during a demo session in Tel Aviv was really impressive. Similar to eCommerce's "customers who bought this item also bought…" feature, Panorama Necto suggests queries, reports, and dashboards that may be useful to you based on your prior usage and – here's the real trick – based on the usage of other co-workers in your "work circles" (co-workers you friended). I haven't seen anything similar from other BI vendors, so for now this is a truly differentiating feature.

Looking forward to more similar trips.