BI, the Cloud, and Mobility in Academia


From time to time academic programs go through what is called a “program review.” If you were to put this in business terms, it is roughly equivalent to a business examining its strategy to ensure that it still relevant.  However, in the academic sense, it is much more about making sure that we are teaching our students skills that will make them valuable to businesses when they graduate.

A big part of this process is sitting down with our industry partners that make up our advisory board and having a discussion on that very subject.  During this discussion we don’t ask about
what skills they need now, but rather the skills that they will need 2-5 years from now.  Given the diversity of our advisory board, we expected to get a wide range of responses to that question.  However, when we asked them, we pretty much received a uniform response.  Our business advisors said that they wanted, “business intelligence , on the cloud, that was secure, and accessible from mobile devices.”

This wasn’t necessarily a departure from what we had heard in the past, but more of an extension of it.  Our partners had always coveted those students that could develop web applications.  They also wanted graduates that had business intelligence (BI) expertise.  The addition of mobility was fairly new, but expected given that mobile business apps will be leading
type of software being developed by 2015
.

We have begun to act on this advice by including mobile development topics in our object oriented courses, examining business intelligence partnerships, and leading student projects in cloud computing using the Microsoft Azure platform.  However, I believe that our projections
for a 2-5 year window will be arriving sooner than we expected.  This was made even more  apparent when I read a recent blog post by David Linthicum on Infoworld.com.

In this post, Linthicum (whose blog was listed as one to watch in 2011 by Focus) discusses how cloud based BI is a game changer because it opens up BI to smaller businesses that would not normally be able to take advantage of it due to the high price tag.   While I might disagree a bit that the cloud won’t add any new capabilities (all that processing power has to open up the ability to process data in ways that was previously thought to be too processor intensive for traditional BI, right?), I was really delighted to see that he mentioned that the cloud will open up the accessibility to BI reports for mobile devices.

I think that it might even go farther than simply accessing reports from mobile devices.  In fact, I believe that mobile devices may even be used in place of a PC to create ad hoc reports and access other BI capabilities.  It actually even lends a little support to my post about mobile and Azure being the next client-server architecture.

If you are interested in examining these topics for your programs, please contact me and I will try to answer any questions that you may have.   I can tell you that we have relied heavily on technologies from Microsoft in order to integrate these topics into our curriculum.  I am not sure about the other providers, but I know that Microsoft is making all sorts of free resources available for business intelligence (MS Enterprise Consortium), mobile (MSDN Academic Alliance, Dreamspark), and cloud (free access to Azure).  We have found that these technologies are not a departure from what we are currently using and have made it easy to integrate these items into our curriculum.  Plus the students like the price tag!

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