Out of the hundreds of BI analysts I’ve interacted with over the years, there are five that stand out as exceptional.
To me, they stand out as the big-picture thinkers who have a clear passion for the BI space. Rather than just thinking mechanically about vendors, they’re focused on the broader role and evolution of data analytics and BI as a whole.
This is my list of the top five data analysts to follow.
1. Merv Adrian
Merv is a guru in the big data space. He began his career as a programmer and is now an analyst for Gartner. He’s a big thinker. When you see his work, you get a feel for his depth of understanding – it goes beyond the technology and extends to the industry and its trends. He also comprehensively understands the vendors – he knows what they’re doing, how robust their technology is and how significant their business will be in the future.
Merv has the capacity to bring together his knowledge and understanding succinctly into a coherent narrative. In a short period of time, he can convey his understanding of the entire space which is unusual. When I engage with him and his work I gain a deeper understanding of the industry and how that could influence our business at Yellowfin.
2. Jen Underwood
Jen has years of hands-on experience in the BI space and is a force of nature – she’s so enthusiastic and passionate about the space it’s infectious. A technical practitioner – she’s not afraid to get hands-on with the technology to really understand what it means. This is evident in any piece she writes about vendors – you can see that she’s taken the product through its paces, understood what it does and how it works. This allows her to give an unbiased view of the technology and an honest assessment of that vendor. Her recent analysis of Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant is a case in point, providing a must-read perspective on this research.
Jen also has a core understanding that there’s no quick fix in BI. The reality is there are multiple steps you have to go through as an organization and you have to do each of them – you can’t take shortcuts. Jen has articulated this time and time again and I admire that she stands by her view while the rest of the industry looks for a silver bullet.
3. Dan Sommer
Dan was a BI Analyst and Research Director for Gartner when I was introduced to him. What really stands out for me is his depth of understanding – it’s not just about marketing or transactional in nature. His knowledge of the market is both deep and broad. He gets to the heart of the key players in the market, their successes, their failings and what makes each of them different. He also understands the industry trends and what is driving them.
While Dan worked for Gartner he wasn’t involved in writing the Magic Quadrant. This meant he often had a different perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor – he looked beyond the product. Qlik saw that knowledge and hired Dan to lead its Global Market Intelligence Center (what a fantastic hire!).
4. Shawn Rogers
Once an analyst, Shawn is now Director of Analytic Strategy for TIBCO Software Inc. He’s been in the industry for over 20 years and lives and breathes the technology space and understands it innately. He can take away the marketing veneer and get to the heart of where each vendor plays, what they’re doing and why it’s important.
In every interaction I have with Shawn, I walk away with a deeper understanding of the industry. Because he has been through several cycles he has an amazing ability to focus on meaningful trends and changes, rather than the latest shiny object.
5. Robin Bloor
As a mathematician, Robin comes to his work as an analyst from a scientific angle. He really cares about the technology and its place in the world of BI and analytics. As a futurist, he thinks in 20 and 30-year horizons – considering what we’re doing today and where it will lead in the long-term.
For example, he had interesting perspectives about the future of AI many years ago. He believed that the future of technology would be AI driven many, many years ago (before it hit the mainstream). In my interactions with Robin and his work, I’m given the opportunity to think about where the space is heading, what it means as a vendor, and what Yellowfin needs to think about and plan for in the distant future.
Each of these people has a deep technical understanding of the industry. They’re passionate about the tech but look beyond individual products to see the big picture. Whenever I engage with their work, I get a much bigger and broader sense of the BI and analytics industry which helps me to shape where we take Yellowfin in the future.