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James Taylor

I will use this blog to discuss business challenges and how technologies like analytics, optimization and business rules can meet those challenges.

About the author >

James is the CEO of Decision Management Solutions and works with clients to automate and improve the decisions underpinning their business. James is the leading expert in decision management and a passionate advocate of decisioning technologies business rules, predictive analytics and data mining. James helps companies develop smarter and more agile processes and systems and has more than 20 years of experience developing software and solutions for clients. He has led decision management efforts for leading companies in insurance, banking, health management and telecommunications. James is a regular keynote speaker and trainer and he wrote Smart (Enough) Systems (Prentice Hall, 2007) with Neil Raden. James is a faculty member of the International Institute for Analytics.

This headline came from a briefing I got from LucidEra about their spring release and was so good I just had to use it. Think about it - if all a dashboard does is stress you out and raise your blood pressure by telling you what's wrong without giving you any help as to how to fix it then it is not much use. You must know what decisions can and should be made and think about how you can help the user of that dashboard make the right decision and make it fast.

This was the #1 principle in Tom Davenport's piece on the new BI back in December. He listed 10 prinipcles of which the first two were:

  1. Decisions are the unit of work to which BI initiatives should be applied.
  2. Providing access to data and tools isn't enough if you want to ensure that decisions are actually improved.
This thread, this idea that BI must focus on decisions, also came up in a piece written by two of Gartner's smartest analysts - Kurt Schlegel and Gareth Herschel - called "Business Intelligence and Decision Making". This paper was one of Gartner's Strategic Planning Assumptions and the (free) summary says:

A subset of organizations that seek a competitive advantage will evolve the primary role of their business intelligence and performance management initiatives to ensure that decision making is made a core competency across the company (my emphasis).

When I participated in IBM's launch of their BAO (Business Analytics and Optimization) service line (see this BusinessWeek article for a summary) it was clear that this organization is very focused on decisons and on moving from a fairly passive "decision support" mindset to a more proactive "action support" mindset.

The first step is to focus BI and dashboard development on decisions and this means identifying the decisions that your users must make, the questions to which they need answers, and then focusing on these like a laser. Data quality, data integration, timeliness should all be driven by the decision's needs. This can be a challenge for companies and is one I often spend a lot of time on when I work to help them improve their use of analytics.

By the way, I blogged about LucidEra before and hoped they would keep moving towards this idea of acting not just informing. Glad to see them moving along the path that everyone should be following - focused on the decisions to be made and on making it easier (and perhaps automatic) to make them.

Posted April 23, 2009 5:43 PM
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