'BI Work Has Changed From A Reports/Metrics ‘Doer’ Role, Into An Enabler Role For The Business'

Interview with Kevin Harrison, Assistant CDO of the State of Illinois


Kevin Harrison has over 20 years of experience leveraging technology to drive organizational growth and change. His primary focus has been on Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.

Kevin presently serves as the Assistant CDO of the State of Illinois where he is creating the State Data Practice and building a statewide approach to analytics. Prior to that position he served 3 years as the CIO of the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, where he modernized the Department’s approach to information systems by focusing on the needs of the business and implementing best practices. Kevin also served as chair of the State’s Cloud Strategy Working Group.

We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Business Intelligence Innovation Summit, taking place in Chicago this November 29-30.

How did you get started in Business Intelligence?

Working on an SAP implementation in 1996, I was trained on an ETL product to help the data migration into SAP. As the SAP deployment began there was a need for a repository to hold the historical data, and I was assigned to that project due to my ETL experience. After leaving that company, and joined a small consulting firm, my experience with ETL tools had me working on several Data Warehouses and I began to grow in my Business Intelligence experience and knowledge.

With self-service analytics tools now commonplace, what do you feel is the future for Business Intelligence as we know it?

I believe the future is in combining the data, providing governance, and working with/maturing the business users to best utilize these tools. The self-service tools combined with business users becoming more savvy helps put the value of Business Intelligence into the businesses hands directly, which shows the value of BI directly. In short, BI work has changed from a reports/metrics ‘doer’ role, into an enabler role for the business and can make BI more of a partner and not just a function.

Do you think companies focus enough on external data when it comes to Business Intelligence?

In general there is not enough focus on external data. Partially because it is extra work, and partially because the end-users do not necessarily see the value of it, until there is an actual example of how it helps the business. However, it appears to me, that once external data is brought into an environment, the shift is dramatic and occurs quickly,

What new technologies and tools do you feel are set to have the most impact on your role in the near future?

For the maturity level of BI in this environment, Data Visualization tools are the most important, but as those are adopted, it will quickly move to more matching tools between various systems.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

The discussion will focus around the building of a Statewide Data Practice. How we are approaching taking many pockets of disjointed BI projects, and a great disparity in the maturity level of various offices and creating a cohesive approach. This includes breaking down barriers and sharing work and data across the enterprise.

You can hear from Kevin, along with other experts in data analytics, at the Business Intelligence Innovation Summit. View the full agenda here.

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