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Ted Cuzzillo's BI

Ted Cuzzillo

Why technology catches on, or not

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The people in an audience who ask what seems like a rude question to a speaker on stage are often the ones worth listening to. Take, for example, the guy the other night. He talked about his movie camera, but he might as well have been talking about BI tools.

He said that he had had a Bolex 16-milimeter movie camera back when he was a kid, and so anyone else could have, too. To him, the idea that new technology like small video cameras and inexpensive desktop editing was now unleashing a burst of moviemaking was just not true. "It's nonsense. You know it is," he told the Oscar-winner Walter Murch, who sat listening patiently on stage.



I didn't write down Murch's reply, but I have my own: Great as the Bolex may have been, amateur filmmaking back then was slow, expensive, and lonely. There were no swarms of fellow filmmakers and no audience on YouTube. Bolex Schmolex.

Cinema, and business, depend on more than technology.

Murch's main point, which he explained for almost an hour, was about cinema's quick success a century ago. It took off, he said, because the popular culture was prepared for it, not just because the technology had arrived.

Just one of the "three fathers of cinema," as Murch calls them, had anything to do with the technology: Thomas Edison. Beethoven, and introduced dynamism into music instead of the ordered music of Haydn and Mozart. Also Flaubert, another name as shorthand for the new painters and fiction writers who discarded fantasy and aristocratic life for everyday reality.

Does he mean that everyone in the bargain matinee seats a Beethoven fan? No, but I wish I'd asked how it worked. For now, I go with the teabag theory: a bit of pungent herbs have a way of permeating the surrounding medium. Just ask Sarah Palin.

From Beethoven's dynamism, it's a short leap into the vocabulary we know today: fast cuts, close-ups followed by panoramas, stories interlaced with other stories, and so on.

Imagine a tool that falls into a culture that's not ready. Say some ancient toymaker invented the wheel but for centuries afterward the adults kept dragging freight around on sleds. That's apparently what the Aztecs did. Same thing happened to the steam engine invented by the Greeks.

I wish I could raise my hand now to ask Murch a few questions: For example, could cinema have taken root with a Mozartian vocabulary instead of a Beethovenian one? I suppose we'd have nothing like "Citizen Kane" and a lot of films like "This is My Railroad" (1940; Southern Pacific).

Who can say about movies, though? It's much easier to speculate whether BI can take root in an organization with no fathers or mothers of data analysis.

7 Comments

Interesting topic, Ted. Technology has created parallels in every aspect of our lives.

Much like film, digital recording equipment has created a new generation of aspiring rock stars, journalists and impresarios. Digital photography has ignited a wave of popularity as well. Walk along any major city thoroughfare and you will see hordes of people with fancy cameras.

The same thing is true in sports. Whether it's tennis or golf with enlarged sweet spot equipment or skiing with "shaped" skis, the attainment of perfection is now seemingly within the grasp of more people then ever before.

However, none of these advancements enabled by technology can ever replace talent and skill. Yes, more golfers can hit a 250 yard drive but there is still only one Tiger Woods (accident or not). While there are many budding rock bands there is still only one U2.

The same is true of technology in business. While SaaS based CRM now puts sales force automation in the hands of many more organizations, each of them requires a well honed sales process to make it work properly. The lack of sales maturity becomes only highlighted and the problem magnified when applying a would be technology "solution" to a broken situation.

In the end it is the ability of the film maker, rock band, golfer, tennis player, or organization to use the technology to fulfill its expression not the technology's role to provide skill where there is none.

It is way past time that we understand that technology is only a tool, its value depends upon the skill of the user and the use to which it is put.

Yes, certain tools allows us to do things we could never to before, they allow us to see things and share experiences that in the past were the perview of a select few individuals.

But in the, end they are only as good as the use to which they are put, and our ability to use them effectively.

BPM is not going to magically transform a lousy process or poor management into a "best of breed" environment.

BI is not going to turn eveyone into better managers.

SOA is not going to instantly turn IT into a lean/agile provider of services if those services don't match the needs of the customer.

We are constantly looking for the next "silver bullet" that is going to solve the world's problems, while at the same time we are not, in many cases, using effectively the tools we already have.

Unfortunately as someone once said, "We have seen the enemy and they are us."

Dave Youkers i agree you :)

I forgot to say thanks :)
thanks for post Ted

Congratulations on a great youre mentioning
thanks
jack.

We'll escape capture technology ;)
thanks
kenny!

In this blog, freelance writer and analyst Ted Cuzzillo considers the far end of business intelligence, where technology meets the irregular human profile. With original reporting and analysis, he writes about data analysis and the analysts themselves, as well as a range of other concerns such as perceptions, terminology and personalities.

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