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Neil Raden

I hope that you will engage with me with your comments as we explore the future of business intelligence (BI), particularly its expanding role in the actual process of making decisions and running an organization. BI is poised for a great leap forward, but that will leave a lot of people and solutions behind so expect a bumpy ride. I also expect there will be a flurry of advice and methodologies for moving BI into a more active role, one that will widen the audience as BI meets more needs. But a lot of that advice will be thin and gratuitous, so hold on while we put it under the microscope. You can reach me directly if you prefer at nraden@hiredbrains.com.

About the author >

Neil Raden is an "industry influencer" – followed by technology providers, consultants and even industry analysts. His skill at devising information assets and decision services from mountains of data is the result of thirty years of intensive work. He is the founder of Hired Brains, a provider of consulting and implementation services in business intelligence and analytics to many Global 2000 companies. He began his career as a casualty actuary with AIG in New York before moving into predictive modeling services, software engineering and consulting, with experience in delivering environments for decision making in fields as diverse as health care to nuclear waste management to cosmetics marketing and many others in between. He is the co-author of the book Smart (Enough) Systems and is widely published in magazines and online media. He can be reached at nraden@hiredbrains.com.

Recently in Decisions Category

You can't fix a broken company by measuring how broken it is. You can't even improve a functioning company by measuring where it could do better.

The BI industry has sort of casually sent the message that BI makes companies better. I've seen this in presentations, webinars, seminars, books and blogs from vendors, practitioners and analysts. But the question is, once you expose something that needs attention, what next? As a consultant and implementer of data warehousing and BI for many years, I never really came up with a good answer. I always referred to it as the Jordan River problem: we could take them through the desert and to the east bank of the Jordan, but like Moses, we couldn't get them across. Even when we did everything we set out to do, when approaching management about the next phase of the operation, to help the client start addressing the problems with employee morale, high turnover, inventory snafus, poor customer service, etc., the response was usually something like, "Neil, aren't you the data warehouse guy? Shouldn't we get McKinsey in here to work on that?"

In short, if you're involved with BI, you may have as good or even better insight into what is going on in the company, but you clearly lack the portfolio to do anything about it.

Part of the problem is that we feel successful if we can just get people to USE what we've built, so maybe it's time to stretch a little. In our proposals to clients, we should measure our success by how effectively people use what we built, and develop the programs and consulting expertise to see to it that they do. The first step in doing that may be to address the issue of decision-making in addition to just informing decisions. I'll be generating some original research this year on decision-making, but it's only the beginning. If we can deliver BI with a better understanding of how decisions are made (or avoided), how good/bad decisions are made, we can more or less stay in our patch but offer a much better service.

This practice could include things like a decision audit, workshops for helping people understand how they really are deciding things (versus their mental model which may be incorrect) and, finally, tracking actual decisions and evaluating how well they were made. Now THAT would be Business Intelligence. All of this can happen if we can ride BI into the areas of the company that need attention. If we perpetuate the BI-is-an-IT-project mentality, or that BI is for go-to-guys, we won't have the wormhole that moves us past the McKinsey barrier. But if we do, those decision makers that can change the way the company works will be our clients. 

Anyone want to join me in building this competency?

Posted March 26, 2009 12:36 PM
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