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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.

I was struck today by a short but effective Information Builders PowerPoint - Four Worst and Four Best Practices in Business Intelligence. I really liked the worst practices - especially the one about assuming that business people have the skills or time to learn to use a BI tool. I blogged not long ago about the problem that most people are not very good at math and this is just as true when considering BI more generally as when thinking about data mining and analytics.

It's also true that many of the people targeted by BI tools don't have the time to use drill-down and analysis tools. Think about the folks in the call center - they want answers, not an ability to explore, so that they can finish the call. This is why it is important to think about the decisions involved and who you want making them. Knowing the decision and the decision maker will help you determine if you need BI tools to help decide or analytics and rules to automate that decision. And remember, just because someone passes on the result of a decision does not mean that the same person is qualified to make the decision. A call center representative might be the one to pass on a denial of a refund for instance but you might want someone else to decide which refunds get denied. Automating the decision can allow one person to control how the decision is made while others pass on these decisions.

I was also struck by the worst practice of selecting a BI tool without a specific business need. I spoke about this when I presented in South Africa earlier this year. If the reason you buy a BI tool is just to have BI then you probably aren't helping your company as much as you could be. Understand the business drivers - the decisions that must be made, the reports required for compliance - and you will do better. You can check out the slides and audio from this presentation on my website - Does BI Matter? (large file warning)

And this brings us back to my favorite Best practice - identify your business need upfront. Or, I would say, begin with the decision in mind.

Posted September 9, 2010 6:30 PM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

1 Comment

Thanks for this find! Good advice and a thought-provoking presentation. One comment: the last of the best/worst talks about desktop integration. I'd take this one further. While it's critical to start with a key decision in mind, it's also valuable, in selecting a BI solution, to look for one that has enough inherent flexibility that it could potentially be easily used for supporting other key decisions down the road. Working with desktop applications is good - working with other applications as well has its benefits too.

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