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Comparing apples to oranges May 11, 2009

Posted by willem42195 in Business Intelligence.
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Setting: requirements gathering meeting.

User: (firm) My data cannot be aggregated.

Analyst: Cannot or should not?

User: (puzzled) Cannot.

Analyst: Why not?

User: Because you cannot compare apples to oranges.

Analyst: No? Why can’t you compare their weight, volume, taste etc.?

User: Hmm. (thinking) OK, but you cannot add them.

Analyst: Well, in a way you can: 5 apples and 3 oranges are 8 pieces of fruit.

User: Hmm. (thinking) Maybe you’re right. (enthusiastic) That would give me some of those key figures I have to report every month. Never thought I would be able to get that information from the data warehouse. Now, can we define the rules when (not) to aggregate data and what aggregations to apply?

Analyst: Yes we can!

When things go wrong May 4, 2009

Posted by willem42195 in Business Intelligence.
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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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