Saturday, September 13, 2008

Business Intelligence - A Bigger Picture

Recently, some "anonymous" poster left an angry toned comment on one of my blog entries. The entry I am speaking of was about how Business Intelligence is actually in the heads of people and not the software. It also discussed a topic around standard and non-standard software skill sets that can be involved as part of a Business Intelligence implementation. You can read the entry here and see the comment and my response if you are interested.

My curiosity got the best of me. By looking at my blog stats, I noticed that the date of the comment and the specific hit on my blog came from the Ottawa Canada area. I also noticed that the same stat showed a specific search on my name which provided a hit to that entry. I could only assume that the comment was from an employee who worked at Cognos. You can make of it what you wish. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, if you are going to make a negative statement or opinion, please think twice before trying to discredit someone. It will only make you look ignorant. I guess that is why it was an anonymous post, huh? Open Source companies including Pentaho, are really making themselves known and disrupting proprietary markets as you know them today. I can understand that other proprietary software employees, who have not thought things through, could be agitated and ready to post negative comments.

One of the things that caught my attention in the comment was that he/she stated a particular software package, Axiant, that I mentioned "was not part of the IBM / Cognos BI Platform". (Keep in mind that I never said it was, nor implied that specifically) He/she continued that it was outdated and not actively sold. I found that humorous because that comment only further supported my argument instead of discrediting me, which seem to be the motive of the comment.

This blog entry is not about Axiant or what is or isn't part of a BI Platform; it is about how Business Intelligence is part of a bigger picture and not just a particular software package. BI in general involves many different factors in order to be successful no matter what software or skill set is being used. It requires the knowledge and expertise of the individuals who know it best. This includes the customer knowing what problems they have or want to prevent, as well as the software vendor and/or consultants who know how to provide solutions for those problems.

Analogy 1: Imagine you want to hang a picture. You have some screws but no tools. You go to the hardware store and say, "I need a hammer", because you think that is the proper tool to get the job done. The proper response would be for the salesperson to ask you, "What do you need the hammer for?" or "What project will the hammer help you with?". When he finds out that you want to hang a picture and all you have are screws, the salesperson may suggest a screwdriver instead of the hammer or perhaps give you nails and a hammer. Even better yet, he may offer something that is even easier to use or costs less like those new gravity hooks. You see, the salesperson needs to ask the proper questions to help the customer with the proper solutions. He may even offer a better solution to which the customer had no idea about. The salesperson was the expert who provided the knowledge for the proper solution or alternative.

BI not only involves helping the customer with existing problems but also involves helping them to see problems that they many not know exist.

Analogy 2: Imagine having a piece of food on your lip and not knowing it. Your friend says, "Hey, you got something on your lip!", and points it out to you. You then take the appropriate action to resolve that problem by wiping it away with a napkin. The napkin was the tool, you wiping it away was the action you took from the knowledge and direction provided by your friend. Your friend helped you discover a problem you didn't know was there.

It is clear and easy to see that these two analogies provide support that Business Intelligence is about collaboration, communication, discovery, knowledge, insight, direction and action to just name a few. These factors along with the proper software and services can provide an organization with a successful BI implementation. The software can be part of a specific BI Platform or simply an application development environment used to create any sort of business applications that can provide knowledge on data. Business Intelligence is not just about collecting data and reporting, it is a methodology in which experts can provide assistance. If you would like your organization to succeed, it is extremely important to understand the factors of BI and learn how to analyze and use the data created by this methodology.

Thank you for your comment "anonymous" poster, you helped me anchor how BI is part of a bigger picture, in the heads of people and not just in a software stack.