Merv Adrian recently posted on Information Builders Prepares to Ramp It Up
and this made me think of webFocus. Like Merv I recently spoke with Michael Corcoran and learned a little more about Information Builder's attitude to decision making and information.
page says "Because Everyone Makes Decisions" and pushing information access and analysis to front-line workers, customers, consumers is clearly a big focus at IBI. In this context I am fond of a quote from Peter Drucker "Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives' decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake".
Now IBI moved to a web-based architecture
a long time ago (webFocus came out in 1996) to try to change the
dynamics of potential users - not just a few desktop users but massive numbers
of end users and customers. While this was a little early for many, today a web-centric approach is clearly mainstream. This focus on distributed access over the web combined with their "If you can buy a book
online you can get your own information on demand" interface for guided
ad-hoc reporting makes the product particularly interesting for non-technical users.
One of the interesting side effects Michael discussed was that of behavior change in those folks who were given access to information, especially information that allowed them to compare themselves to others. It turns out that people with more information about their performance take their performance more seriously.
It is clear that lots of people make decisions and those decisions should be supported by the right technology and for many of those decisions this means making data and analysis of that data available. But the systems those people use should also make decisions. This might mean taking a decision completely out of someone's hands and automating it or, more likely, automating all the easy ones (80-95%) and leaving the user to handle the tricky ones. It might also mean automating the process of determining context for a decision - helping a user focus on the 3 viable options not the 300 possible ones. This is where decision management comes in.
I wrote about pushing BI beyond business managers
before. I think one of the most important steps a company can take in adopting the right mix of business intelligence and decision management is to be explicit about the decisions it is trying to influence. Once you know that, you can look at each to see if it should be supported or automated or some mixture of the two (using automation to restrict the array of options available, for instance, to a shorter list). Leaping in to using BI to support a decision or rules to automate one without having given enough thought to the who/what/where/when of the decision is unlikelly to result in the best outcome. BI, especially BI for consumers and front-line staff can and should be balanced with decision management.