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By Jay Jakosky, Senior Consultant

I know lame BI when I see it.  BI is lame when it shows KPIs without insight into why they’re failing or succeeding.  BI is lame when it shows sales figures without enough context to judge performance.  BI is lame when it shows the same Top 10 Customers every day when it should show the Top 10 Customer Calls you need to make ASAP.

But I’ve never stopped and considered what separates lame BI from quality BI.  Curt Monash, in his excellent blog, DBMS2, identifies 2 axes of Business Intelligence:  operational and root cause.  Into the quadrants he fit the descriptive names that belong there.  That gives a matrix like so:

What this also shows is that lame BI has little to do with the product used.  Real-time means “in time to make a difference”–Curt Monash uses the phrase “human real-time”–but most businesses can measure that in minutes or hours:  long enough for BI to play a pivotal role. Some products do give an advantage.  QlikView is excellent for investigative BI and its rapid development model makes it easy to prototype, test for value and deploy a working BI tool.

Lame BI is a product of something else.  Politics leads to lame BI.  Expose a KPI in a dashboard and if it goes the wrong direction someone gets blamed.  Building the real-time or tactical BI to address the issue is someone else’s problem.  Somehow this passes for “managing on results.”

Wishful thinking or inexperience is another cause of lame BI.  People believe that having a dashboard at their fingertips, whenever, wherever, will improve management. This promise is what continues to sell lame BI.  Hopefully they don’t run out of money or lose faith before getting the BI they really need.

Data quality is a major cause of lame BI.  KPI’s are looking where the light is. To look at root cause in a tactical app requires that you have captured the cause. Real-time alerting requires that some actionable fact be available on a shorter time frame than the KPI is measured.

BI is a primary interface to business data. It is often the only interface to data spanning business departments. Therefore, BI is the last stop and the most important place to add context, gain insight and influence business decisions for better or worse. Lame BI is wasting money, time and opportunity. Don’t let another lame BI tool get built in your company.


About the Author
Jay Jakosky, a Senior Consultant at Bardess, has been working with business intelligence, business software and databases for over 20 years. He is a passionate advocate for technology and business. For him, business intelligence is about seeing reality and driving action. He would love to talk your ear off about the coming leap forward in business software made possible by big-data technologies, social business intelligence systems and advances in human-computer interaction.  “I live at the intersection of business and technology where a geek like me gets to transform companies and help people every day. I love understanding my customers–their goals, challenges, and long-shot hopes–and building tools that make new things possible. Any company could achieve this with focus and time. I do it lightening fast, which means more iterations, more exploration and faster payback. I have an outstanding set of tools. And I’m extraordinarily fortunate to have the passion for technology and the experience in so many companies.”