This story is part of Analytics Heroes, a series of profiles on leaders transforming the future of business analytics.
Immediately following his client, Heather Gardner, for a filmed interview at Data and AI Forum in Miami, we meet Ryan Dolley of PMsquare, a full-service IBM Analytics business partner. Ryan is the Director of Technology, and PMsquare has a longstanding relationship with Alliant Energy, a utility company based in Madison, Wisconsin. Ryan says, “we guide companies through the whole process of using IBM Analytics.” Ryan specializes in helping people understand the power of analytics solutions, how they can license and, deploy them, and he collaborates on project design and delivery.
Helping clients rethink BI
For more than a decade, PMsquare has helped Alliant Energy get the most from their investment in IBM Cognos Analytics. “We help [Alliant Energy] look at the way they’ve traditionally done things, and then build bridges into the future, so they can build a more agile and self-service analytics workflow,” says Ryan.
Over the years, Ryan realized that Alliant Energy had settled into a “pretty rigid” set of business intelligence processes and needed to rethink its approach. The first step to solving this problem was to gather information. Ryan decided to interview their Business Intelligence (BI) team to figure out what set of capabilities would be most valuable, which users should have access to them, and how to best deploy them. He describes his findings as “there were two sides to the coin: making sure we were satisfying users while ensuring the BI team could support the processes. If you don’t have buy-in on both sides, you won’t have a successful deployment.”
Leveraging IBM’s full spectrum of data solutions
Ryan discusses the advantages of using IBM’s suite of analytic software, “we’ve also been using IBM Planning Analytics powered by TM1, which has great integration with Cognos Analytics.” He goes on to describe his experience partnering with IBM and how it helps his clients reach their goals. Ryan states, “the thing about IBM that sets them apart from everybody else is the breadth of the technology that they bring to bear… no matter what type of problem you’re trying to solve with data, IBM has a solution tailored to it. And all of those solutions work together on a common platform. So, you can bring data into the IBM analytics platform, expose them through a variety of endpoints, and be confident that you’re going to have a unified governance layer, knowledge catalog, and data architecture.”
Ryan concludes by comparing other solutions and their offerings, “when you look at IBM versus other players in the analytics market, there are lots of people who do one slice of it very well, but there’s only one company that does the whole thing.”
Combining traditional reporting with agile visualizations
For a company with such a deep archive of data, it was important to maintain access to historical processes and reports. Alliant Energy’s needs are a combination of classic data warehousing and BI with a more modern, highly visual analytics methodology. “In our approach, we didn’t want to overturn the applecart. We wanted to maintain the foundational aspects of reporting, but also bring in the ability for users to upload their own spreadsheets to Cognos Analytics, connect them to the enterprise data warehouse, and build their own visualizations,” says Ryan.
PMsquare went into their partnership with the idea that they would rethink the way Alliant was doing BI, and bring in more modern processes. To this point, Ryan adds, “but we’re not going to chuck out everything they’d built up over 20 years, because a lot of that is [still] really valuable.”
Building a flexible foundation for a changing industry
As an energy provider, Alliant Energy needs to anticipate and respond to changes in the utility industry such as distributed power generation, solar energy, and renewables. According to Ryan, “Alliant needs an expandable analytics platform to face its future data challenges.” Ryan believes that by partnering with PMsquare and IBM, Alliant is building a rock-solid foundation to build on, “no matter what happens with the utility industry — for example, with streaming data, and Internet of Things data coming online — we know we can help them adapt.”
Ryan is excited about the opportunities these changes will bring. “I see a lot of convergences happening between technologies,” he says. “For example, in some places you build on the data from IBM Cloud Paks, then add Cognos or Planning Analytics to your portfolio, and it all fits together… it’s like a really fun data-based set of LEGO,” says Ryan with a laugh.
Being an Analytics Hero: Teaming up to save the day
When asked about his partnership with Alliant Energy, Heather Gardner chimes in, “knowing that [Ryan] is there to help me with my skillset, training, get the environment tuned, and especially helping me celebrate success, [he’s] helped me become a Hero.” For all that he’s done for Heather and Alliant Energy, Ryan is recognized as an Analytics Hero. By teaming up with his client, using his talent and connections he, like Heather, is able to soar to great heights.