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When things go wrong May 4, 2009

Posted by willem42195 in Business Intelligence.
Tags: , ,

This article has been triggered by some recent posts on the role of IT. See for example Peter Thomas’s The scope of IT’s responsibility when businesses go bad or Jill Dyché’s Dear IT: A Letter from Your Business Users.

Let me jump immediately to my conclusion: the success of any business intelligence initiative is a shared responsibility.

In Competing on Analytics, Tom Davenport writes the best information and analytics aren’t very useful unless good decisions are made and the right actions taken.

While it is IT’s job to make sure that the business has everything at its disposal to make the right decisions, it is not IT’s task to run the business.

If you know a little about statistics or game theory, chances are (pun intended) that you do not engage in gambling. Yet, so many people do. The same is true in business.

There can be many reasons why business men and women deliberately choose to ignore factual information and follow their instincts:

  • they have been successful before and started to believe they are unbeatable
  • the incentive is so big that they simply want to try their luck
  • they fear they will no longer be around when credit is given for the hard work they have to do now, whereas for the same reason it will be too late to hold them accountable for their negligence

As IT you may have access to someone with more power than the offender (either an executive in your organization or an external actor like e.g. a regulator) and prevent disaster from happening. But sometimes you don’t or you are not prepared to pay the price for blowing the whistle. In that case, the business intelligence initiative will fail. Is it IT’s responsibility? Maybe, but no more than 50%. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

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1. Peter Thomas - May 13, 2009

Meant to say “thanks for the link” earlier.


2. Michael Brooks - May 19, 2009

Hi Willem,

Thanks for your comments on BeyeNetwork. I agree with your thoughts that the best BI is only as good as the decisions people make. Changing behavior and cultures are probably some of the biggest hurdles the financial services and other industries face. Even good people tend to rationalize bad decisions based on behavioral norms, group think, etc. One of the positive signs I see in BI and analytics in general is the move to get these disciplines out of the IT department and into the hands of the decision-makers. IT shouldn’t be the scapegoat nor the barrier to better decision-making. The human element will most likely be the key to making a difference in the long-run.

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