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Ronald Damhof

I have been a BI/DW practitioner for more than 15 years. In the last few years, I have become increasingly annoyed - even frustrated - by the lack of (scientific) rigor in the field of data warehousing and business intelligence. It is not uncommon for the knowledge worker to be disillusioned by the promise of business intelligence and data warehousing because vendors and consulting organizations create their "own" frameworks, definitions, super-duper tools etc.

What the field needs is more connectedness (grounding and objectivity) to the scientific community. The scientific community needs to realize the importance of increasing their level of relevance to the practice of technology.

For the next few years, I have decided to attempt to build a solid bridge between science and technology practitioners. As a dissertation student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, I hope to discover ways to accomplish this. With this blog I hope to share some of the things I learn in my search and begin discussions on this topic within the international community.

Your feedback is important to me. Please let me know what you think. My email address is Ronald.damhof@prudenza.nl.

About the author >

Ronald Damhof is an information management practitioner with more than 15 years of international experience in the field.

His areas of focus include:

  1. Data management, including data quality, data governance and data warehousing;
  2. Enterprise architectural principles;
  3. Exploiting data to its maximum potential for decision support.
Ronald is an Information Quality Certified Professional (International Association for Information and Data Quality one of the first 20 to pass this prestigious exam), Certified Data Vault Grandmaster (only person in the world to have this level of certification), and a Certified Scrum Master. He is a strong advocate of agile and lean principles and practices (e.g., Scrum). You can reach him at +31 6 269 671 84, through his website at http://www.prudenza.nl/ or via email at ronald.damhof@prudenza.nl.

March 2010 Archives

Business Intelligence vendors seem to embrace collaboration (I am still struggling whether this software is any different from the groupware we had in the 90's) . As an example please take a look at SAP streamwork at youtube. I am gonna be blunt here; this type of software is completely useless, unless the organization is willing to fundamentally change its decision making process.

Let me try to make my point here with the help of giants like Galbraith, Daft, Davenport and some..

There are basically two information contingencies; Uncertainty and Equivocality.
  • Uncertainty can be defined as the absence of information (e.g. Shannon and weaver) and can be overcome by simply asking the right question. The answer is out there.....
  • Equivocality is an ambiguity, the existence of multiple and conflicting interpretations about an organizational situation. Participants are not even sure about the questions that need to be asked, let alone the answers they need. I think this can also be regarded as 'wicked problems'.
Now, for overcoming uncertainty you can suffice with relatively blunt instruments. Reporting and the ever increasing possibilities in analytics really shine in reducing uncertainty.

Now, for overcoming Equivocality the Business Intelligence stuff like reporting and even analytics have diminishing usage. You need more 'richness' in the tooling. And with tooling I don't necessarily mean software. Examples of more rich tooling are group meetings, discussions, planning, creative (group) thinking, etc..Simply put; you need face-to-face contact.
Davenport wrote an article about 'Make Better Decisions' in the Harvard Business Review in 2009. He is advocating a more formalized approach towards decision making:

'Smart organizations can help their managers improve decision making in four steps: by identifying and prioritizing the decisions that must be made; examining the factors involved in each; designing roles, processes, systems, and behavior to improve decisions; and institutionalizing the new approach through training, refined data analysis, and outcome assessment.'

Davenport, in my opinion, is aiming towards the equivocality and a more formalized method of coming to an outcome. And frankly, I like it a lot. But organizations need to really be willing to change its decision making process. And this is a major organizational and cultural change in my opinion. If organizations are really committed (Davenport is naming a few of those companies - like Chevron, The Stanley Works) in making this change, collaboration software has the potential to shine in supporting such a decision making process.

I am however afraid that collaboration software from BI vendors will be sold as candy with the promise of better decisions. And that is just bullshit and my prediction is that it will fail big time. 

Posted March 30, 2010 12:17 PM
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