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Business Intelligence Kindling

Originally published July 16, 2009

I just got a Kindle DX from Amazon. I got it because I knew very little about electronic books and because I was growing concerned about the prices students are paying for text books. In addition, since I teach technology courses, it just seemed the right thing to do.

Now you might ask what in the world this has to do with business intelligence (BI). Well, you see it occurred to me when I was exploring my new Kindle that having wireless access to a wealth of texts and periodicals at the touch of a button could come in handy, especially when this potential library of reference material is so readily portable! Then I made the leap that this might have some connection to business intelligence. So this was my train of thought…

If you accept the premise that business intelligence is about enabling and informing decision making based on evidence, then I think devices such as the Kindle can be thought of as BI tools. Business intelligence does not define the exact form that evidence must take, so it is reasonable to believe that this could include documents. Now the Kindle DX is a device that is one-third of an inch thick; can hold 3,500 books; has a 9-inch screen providing easy readability of maps, texts, tables and Web pages; has a dictionary built in; and has 3G wireless and Wi-Fi capability. So I deduce that this device should be able to be used to enhance the delivery, storage and readability of information needed to inform and support decision making!

With the Kindle’s built in PDF reader, all I will have to do is take any files on my laptop, convert them to PDFs and transfer them to the Kindle DX. This is desirable to me because I never like to read Word or PDF documents on my PC. I prefer to print them out. Call me old fashioned, but I was brought up on 8.5 x 11 paper so I don’t like reading vertically oriented text on a horizontally oriented screen.

Anyhow, when I got this device, my attitude was initially one of skepticism because I like the feel, texture and cover art of real books. However, after downloading my first book on the Kindle and finding that I could see art, search the text, add bookmarks and notes, look up word definitions, change the reading font size and have the book read to me if my eyes were tired, I was excited!

It may sound like I am trying to sell Kindles. I’m not. As one who reads a lot for business and pleasure, I am just fascinated by the utility that this device and others like it can offer.

I deal with a lot of correspondence. Like you, I get too much email, a ton of attachments, I bookmark a lot of Web pages and I am inundated with documents. I prefer receiving electronic documents, even though, as I mentioned earlier, I inevitably print them. I prefer electronic documents because if they are stored on my PC, there’s a better chance I can find them again later using my PC’s search capabilities. I am not, nor have I ever been, good at filing and retrieving paper-based documents.

So when I saw this Kindle DX, the possibility that I could carry my reference library, read documents in the shape I preferred and easily find stuff excited me! I speculated that I could take it to meetings to access relevant documents, use it to read things at work, in transit, or at home, and employ it to retrieve current news media of interest to me on the fly. And because it’s a lot lighter and it is easier to read stuff on the Kindle than my laptop, I could have more flexibility as to when I actually did read things.

What all of this says to me is that despite all of the computing power in my PC, I am vulnerable to not being as informed as I could be. All of the data and analytics in the world are not providing real value to me if I am not able to find and easily read the documents that contain them. And when I do read them, wherever I am (and want to be), I want to be able to supplement them by being able to access external or historical documentation on the fly. I really do need and want more flexibility!

This thinking led me to questioning how I operate. I am honestly often seduced by the promises of new business paradigms (e.g., BI), the claims of new software products and the potential for technologies to enhance business performance. What I don’t always consider is the fact that I am also a critical component of business intelligence and that sometimes I need to consider upgrades to how I approach my own work.

Wikipedia defines business intelligence
as “the skills, technologies, applications, and practices used to help a business acquire a better understanding of its commercial context.” They add, “Business intelligence may also refer to the collected information itself.”

What I, and maybe you, forget is that this applies to us too. What I mean is that I need to pay attention to the skills, technologies, applications and practices that can help to better inform me on an ongoing basis and in a timely manner. If there is an opportunity to enhance my ability to store, access and read the collected information that informs my business intelligence, it should be something I need to look into!

Change is hard, especially as we get older. I realize and confess that I have adopted habits and preferences over time that I find to be comfortable for me because they serve to structure my life – and I have found I like my ways of doing things.

Acquiring a Kindle made me stop and think about my own business intelligence processes and practices. I rarely pause to question my assumptions about how I engage in my professional activities. I sporadically adopt new techniques and technologies in my work and decision-making processes, and then I move forward without questioning these changes, but meanwhile making them part of my routine. I don’t consider the effect of these actions on my ability to adapt and learn or even my own effectiveness.

What I have realized is that business intelligence is not something that is external. Business intelligence is something that needs to be internalized within the individual as well. We’ve got to practice what we preach and question our own heuristics, method, and use of technology so that we’re open to exploring new ideas and ways of doing things. We can’t learn if we’re standing still or changing simply on impulse.

Excuse the pun, but my Kindle lit a fire under me. I realize that to practice BI well means that on a personal level we need to keep stretching and to be open to new technologies, ideas and methods. It is important to ponder and try new things. Business intelligence has a personal dimension that warrants ongoing introspection, reflection and change based on evidence.

It appears I got the Kindle DX for all of the wrong reasons. But I’ll keep it to see how it affects my own business intelligence.


  • Richard HerschelRichard Herschel

    Richard is Chair of the Department of Decision & System Sciences at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Before becoming an educator, he worked at Maryland National Bank, Schering-Plough Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, and Columbia Pictures as a systems analyst. He received his BA in journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University, his Master’s in Administrative Sciences from Johns Hopkins, and his Ph.D. from Indiana University in Management Information Systems. He has earned the Certified Systems Professional designation, and he has written extensively about both knowledge management and business intelligence. Dr. Herschel can be reached at herschel@sju.edu.

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

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Posted July 17, 2009 by Andrys Basten

Hi, I enjoy the DX a lot more than I thought I would, too.  I got it for practical reasons, the ability to read PDFs.

  But as far as converting your material to PDF for your Kindle, it might be better not to.

The Kindle X currrently does not support highlighting, notes, global searches of the kindle to find works in the PDFs, text-to-speech, and notes are the way many of us do a workaround for there being no user-defined folders.

  When I see a document I want on my Kindle, I tend to highlight, copy, and paste into Winword.  You can send it to your [you]@free.kindle.com address to have Amazon convert that into Kindle-compatible format for you at no cost.  The converted copy is sent to your normal email used to correspond with Amazon.  Then you can just move it over to the Kindle with the USB cable.

If you'd rather Amazon send it to your Kindle direct, that costs 15 cents per file up to 1 megabyte in size and 15c add'l for subsequent megs, rounded up.  But doing it this way allows you to have the text indexed on your Kindle, so Kindle is searchable.  And you can highlight, add notes, etc. listen briefly as needed to the text-to-speech while driving etc.   Webpage articles can be extracted by instapaper.com and sent, several files in a digest (one file then) to your Kindle for essentially 15c. 

 I hope that helps... -

- Andrys

http://kindleworld.blogspot.com

 

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Posted July 16, 2009 by Alberto Villari

I am a Data Quality and BI practictioner and I was recently thinking about e-readers, like kindle, and our Top Management's need of information (this includes putting together financial newspapers with their business reports) on the flight, in any place, together with their un-familiarity with new technologies like palmtops etcetera... I was feeling I was on something, and this column is absolutely looking in the same direction...

Let's all BI professional keep stressing this lode of ideas and see what may come up...

Alberto Villari

info@albertovillari.eu

 

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