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Is Business Intelligence a “Force” to be Reckoned With?

Business Intelligence is defined by the website dictionary.com as, “the methods and technologies that gather, store, report, and analyze business data to help people make business decisions”.

I meet with many company owners and staff each year and find that they use many different methods for the collection, processing, and analysis of data in making business decisions. Those methods tend to fall into two camps from the technological to the anecdotal.

Some companies and staff use technological data tools – from the extremely large and expensive systems like SAP and Oracle – to the more cost efficient and flexible solutions like Syncsort and Tableau Software. Having said that, there are just as many, if not more business decisions made by drawing inferences from limited sets of anecdotal data that lead to decisions based on gut instinct.

Although tools like Syncsort and Tableau are cost effective, easy to use, and enable more insightful business decisions, I still witness a vast majority of management decisions based upon the antiquated inferences/anecdotal instinct model. Relying on instincts in lieu of sound data, rather than in concert with sound data, is not unlike driving a car down the highway without any instruments.  The driver of the car, like the driver of the business, lacks the proper instrumentation to accurately determine the best course of action. Instead relying on sensory queues to determine the business’s velocity.

There is another analogy that I can draw in relation to this. There is a scene toward the end of the original Star Wars movie where in Luke Skywalker pushes aside his X-wing fighter’s electronic targeting system and opts instead to use the mysterious “Force” to guide his torpedoe attack. Sure, he was successful with his one in a gazillion shot, but that was in a galaxy far, far away called Hollywood. Interestingly enough, the very place where the code for Tableau Software originated.

How many times has a manager spoken to two to three customers or staff members, inevitably, reaching a conclusion based upon that feedback that is generalized and considered applicable to all its customers? There is a phenomenon in pop culture where people tend to turn opinion into fact when the information is similarly expressed by three or more unrelated people. The phenomenon goes something like this:

When three distinct and unconnected people (sources) share identical information with us (target), we tend to elevate the information to the realm of credible, factual, or truth and as such, decision worthy.

When a manager speaks to two or three customers who don’t know each other, but who express roughly the same feedback, that feedback gets quickly generalized as broader truth or at a minimum, considered as a strong trend or theme. Thereafter businesses will act upon that data as if it were true despite the incredibly small sample size.

In years past, it was understandable that a business would use this ad hoc decision making style because there was no cost efficient or flexible alternative, but now we have technologies to make collecting, processing and analyzing information far more accurate, inexpensive, broad, and visually appealing than ever before. So much so, that there is no longer an excuse for not using Business Intelligence methods and tools in the decision making process.

In fact, most businesses that exist today have had to fight tenaciously over the last decade just to sustain the status quo. Most have had to use layoffs and other cost cutting tactics in an effort to stay viable. Now that most companies have cut resources and spending to the bone, operating as efficiently and lean as possible, where are they to find further improvements in productivity, profitability and growth as we move into the future?

I believe the answer exists in leveraging tools for Business Intelligence. These tools aren’t your father’s legacy Business Intelligence systems. Those systems are rigid, expensive, and time consuming to implement and operate. Today’s next-generation Business Intelligence systems are built from the ground up for the consumption of, and operation by, the everyday front-line business managers that line the offices of our organizations. These tools provide drag and drop ease of use with artful aesthetic interfaces. They provide useful and insightful information that can be manipulated in real time by your everyday line of business managers, as opposed to, high priced, highly skilled data scientist. These same tools hold the potential to provide the next wave of productivity and efficiency enhancements needed to successfully grow our businesses.

Today, most LOB managers are like Luke Skywalker with only the “Force” to guide them. Instead of hoping that the “Force” is strong within each of them, doesn’t it make more sense to provide them with the tools and training to quickly and easily build their business instrumentation? The results will yield far more informed decisions, leading to far better outcomes, and yielding faster and richer returns for everyone.

Attending the Tableau user conference next week, and want to learn more about how DynTek is using Syncsort and Tableau to help customers solve challenging situations with a total delivery model? If so, please join me for my session on Thursday morning, “Making Data Available from Disparate Sources for Real-Time Analytics & Visualization in Tableau at DynTek”.

2 comments
  • Pat Hennel — September 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    “There is a phenomenon in pop culture where people tend to turn opinion into fact when the information is similarly expressed by three or more unrelated people.”

    A lot of times what people say they do and what they actually do are not in synch with each other. When you rely on your gut you might be misled. Whereas when you rely on hard and fast data you know you are acting on real information and not just casual observations.

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