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Richard Hackathorn

Welcome to my blog stream. I am focusing on the business value of low latency data, real-time business intelligence (BI), data warehouse (DW) appliances, use of virtual world technology, ethics of business intelligence and globalization of business intelligence. However, my blog entries may range widely depending on current industry events and personal life changes. So, readers beware!

Please comment on my blogs and share your opinions with the BI/DW community.

About the author >

Dr. Richard Hackathorn is founder and president of Bolder Technology, Inc. He has more than thirty years of experience in the information technology industry as a well-known industry analyst, technology innovator and international educator. He has pioneered many innovations in database management, decision support, client-server computing, database connectivity, associative link analysis, data warehousing, and web farming. Focus areas are: business value of timely data, real-time business intelligence (BI), data warehouse appliances, ethics of business intelligence and globalization of BI.

Richard has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications, presented regularly at leading industry conferences and conducted professional seminars in eighteen countries. He writes regularly for the BeyeNETWORK.com and has a channel for his blog, articles and research studies. He is a member of the IBM Gold Consultants since its inception, the Boulder BI Brain Trust and the Independent Analyst Platform.

Dr. Hackathorn has written three professional texts, entitled Enterprise Database Connectivity, Using the Data Warehouse (with William H. Inmon), and Web Farming for the Data Warehouse.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Richard's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

As professionals in Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, we live and die by the creed of Business by the Data. Deep inside, we know that, if we do our job properly, our companies will be managed better and will perform successfully because with better data comes better decisions. Right?

It is funny! After many decades of struggle, we are entering an era of BI/DW where that creed will be proven correct or exposed as a cruel lie. The evolving practice and technology of BI/DW are awesome! I never cease to be amazed at what innovative companies are doing and what innovative vendors are offering.

Today there was a WSJ article (front left column of Marketplace) that caused me to think deeper on this issue.

The article rambles but makes a useful point. "Managers can be so focused on perfecting today's business that they lose sight of tomorrow's" - that was a quote from a book by Sutton & Pfeffer entitled "Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense".

The point is that the data used in management discussions to make decisions is often filled with misleading and even false assumptions. In particular, we focus too much on the past and (with real-time BI) the present, without thinking deeply and clearly about how our business will change next month and especially this week. Those constant changes are so fundamental to the nature of business. Data from our BI systems often clouds our better judgments, which a hundred years ago would have been labeled common sense.

This echoes an old problem. Whatever we would print a report on the line printer, the data often seemed inconsistent or even mysterious, until we carefully analyzed the application programs that maintained the data. There buried in some COBOL clause was a hidden crucial assumption about how the data was to be used, created on a whim by a programmer meeting a deadline. Thus, the quest to capture meta-data merged.

The same is now true of analytics. Buried in the calculations are crucial assumptions that permeate our dashboards. Guess what? Those assumptions are deeply hidden, may or may not be valid, and affect business performance in a big way.

Therefore, Business by the Data - yes but be careful. It would be better to say Business by Insights, which can be stimulated by data from BI systems. Always ask why when viewing data. Clear thinking will never be replaced by sophisticated analytics.

Posted July 23, 2007 8:18 AM
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