Now that I'm back from the Gartner BI Summit in Dallas, TX and have had the chance to get my thoughts around all the information presented last week, I wanted to summarize the recurring themes presented across the various speakers. The themes of the conference are presented as questions to ask yourself, your team and your company.

Big Data is here, and it has many forms. Well, OK, I admit that not every company will have a need to analyze "Big Data". But if you have a reasonably large website (clickstream data), sell to consumers (online forum postings, social network commentary), or any other electronic data that is generated by or about your company or products, then you need to be aware of the potential benefits. This data can include many different forms – YouTube video, social web postings on Facebook, online product reviews, or non-transaction oriented application log files. What data can you extract from these to determine trends, or identify reasons for changes to your business? And how fast can you reach those conclusions?

Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics are the next evolution in BI. We can all report on what happened in the past. But can your BI system tell you 1) what will happen next and 2) what to do about it? If not, then this may be your next big project. Can you predict and identify fraud? Quickly identify product issues before they become a major problem? If your business is global, can you predict social unrest that may impact your sales? And can you then use the results to direct your employees to the appropriate action?

Mobile BI is increasingly important. Not everyone sits at a desktop all day, and smart phones are becoming commonplace. How can your team view and use BI data where ever they are in order to better execute? Can embedded maps show salespeople where the next and best opportunity lies, and the shortest way to get there? Can up-to-date sales information help a delivery driver ensure the shelves are stocked correctly? The opportunity is everywhere – much like both your customers and employees. It's up to you to find out where the mobile BI value lies.

Skill sets are not adequate to take advantage of new opportunities. To me, this is the big takeaway. We have tons of data available, which can provide huge value. But how many firms have the skills to implement a project like those mentioned above? Not many. Familiar with Hadoop? Understand how to programmatically interpret customer sentiment from a Facebook post? What about building the infrastructure to handle high amounts of unstructured data? Or design an effective Mobile BI layout for an iPhone? As a Consultant, I have to constantly be on the lookout for educational opportunities, as well as open to sharing what I have learned with my co-workers. How will you address your educational needs and those of your team?

The Summit offered up many different opportunities for its attendees, and we all left with much to consider. What are your plans for the future, and how will you implement them?