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6 Bullet Points of Shame for BI Endeavors

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 13, 2010

Fellow Enterprise Irregular Vinnie Merchandani’s “You Can’t Handle the Truth” post on BI is excellent.  He identifies what I call 6 bullet points of shame for BI endeavors that are brilliantly on the money:

1.  Most companies don’t seek out primary, real-time data.

Rinse that same old data through 8 or 10 times, surface it in multiple systems, and then pat yourself on the back because the answers all match.  That’s the GIGO pig wearing a whole lotta lipstick.

2.  Most enterprises are too impatient to deal with contradictory models.

If you are doing it right, your BI systems are going to give you some contradictions.  Instead of realizing the contradictions are gems that tell you something you didn’t already know, most organizations mobilize against them out of fear.  Somebody has to be wrong.

3.  Most enterprises keep looking for the elusive “universal report writer.”

Yes and it shall be 26 dimensions of spinning hypercube doom!

Swiss Army knives are neat.  The more blades, the neater.  Ever notice how many of them sit in the drawer when you get done looking them over?  Reach for the right tool, not the right-for-every-purpose tool.

4.  Most analysts focus on slice and dice, not decisions. Most vendors sell slice and dice.

That would be the BI equivalent of confusing activity with results.

5.  Historical data keeps exploding and is mostly worthless.

Is the answer that we keep too much worthless data, or not enough?  Something is clearly wrong.  If nothing else, great care must be taken that long term historical data is actually what it seems to be as we subtly change over time how the data is gathered, cleansed, and what it means.  So many systems lack Effective Dates, for example.  They cannot see how the data looked at a particular point in time, only how that point in time is reported today.  Those are very different things as anyone who has read 1984 and knows about rewriting history books can tell you.

6.  Few enterprises have the right analytical talent

I was musing not long ago with VC and fellow EI Evangelos Simoudis that very few people actually know how to ask questions in a way that solves problems.  It is something of a Sherlock Holmes conundrum.  All the data is available.  It is shatteringly obvious once someone connects the dots.  Yet, very few know how to step across the stones that peek above the raging torrent of data to get to the other side where the answer lies without falling in and getting wet.

“You see Watson, but you do not observe.”

Check out Vinnie’s post.  Lots more than what I’ve commented on here!

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