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August 28, 2006

Are We Too Old for BI?

I've been critical of BI from time to time. The glowing reviews I read about in magazines or awards submissions I judge just don't line up with my experience. Critics would (and do) say that my experience with my clients isn't up to par, but I don't believe it. The really successful ones have a thread that runs through them that is absent from the stragglers.

I have another idea. It's not BI, it's us. We're too old. Those of us who glommed onto technology like you and me are the exception. Most people in our generation can barely tolerate spreadsheets and email. But look at the generation coming up behind us. Their lives ARE technology. So before we wring our hands and try every trick we can think of to seduce people to use BI, lets think about what kind of software we need for people who live on iPod's, text messaging and video games.

They collaborate, they understand electronic communities, they are not afraid to press YES when the dialog asks YES NO CANCEL. Our generation mastered automatic transmissions and hooking up stereo speakers. This generation sees technology, particularly electronic technology, as a normal extension of their environment.

Search and NextGen BI users - two good topics to think about.

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Posted by at 11:15 AM | Comments (6)

August 21, 2006

BI and Search

Thanks for reading my blog. This is my first entry here and I'll keep it short. I've been hearing a lot lately about integrating search capabilities with BI. Whenever a new idea pops up in this community, I always ask myself the same question: "Is it good for BI customers or is it bad for BI customers?"

Good: There are potentially many benefits to this. For example, when BI reaches a certain state of maturity in an organization, or like SAP BW, has so much stuff in it already, there is a very real issue with finding what you're looking for. Products demo nicely with 30 or 40 reports or templates in a handful of folders, but what happens when an organization has hundreds or thousands of them? The indented directory method which is typical in most BI products (in everything, actually) becomes unwieldily and, frankly, misleading. A hierarchical arrangement (taxonomy is the formal word) does not allow an object to exist in more than place. In addition, you have to know where to look for it.

For example, if we have a report that shows two-brand market shares for current quarter and and same quarter last year, with new brands (introduced in previous 12 months from report period) filtered out, what folder is it in? Brand Share, Year-over-Year or Same-Brand Sales? This is a major problem and organizations find that over time, there is a great deal of duplication in effort simply because people don't know what's already available.

Wouldn't it be simpler if the UI were some sort of guided navigation that directed someone to what they are looking for? This is a little more than keyword search and would operate like this:

- this quarter last quarter comparision of market share of two brands, filtered out new brands, by store type

A specialized search tool should be able to parse the query and match it to the BI tool metadata. If might come up with multiple candidates, and even create dynamic categories based on its understanding of the semantics of the metadata. Watch my white paper site for a more detailed description of this capability.

Bad: Like all rushed innovations, there is the potential that vendors will slap some poorly thought-out search capabilities on top of their offerings for bragging rights and cause the market to shun the idea before it develops.

In addition, it could cause a rush to link unstructured data to BI, something no one is prepared for yet. We don't even have adequate semantics of structured data yet.

This will be a recurring topic here. I look forward to your comments.

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Posted by at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)