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Ted Cuzzillo's BI

Ted Cuzzillo

One reason for BI failure

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What can explain business intelligence's poor adoption rate? Are tools not easy to use? Or is there a deeper reason?

A book from 2000, The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, suggests that BI designers have neglected basic human needs. Jack Vinson, of Knowledge Jolt with Jack fame, has just posted a worthwhile review that sent me scurrying over to Amazon.

Failure begins early for many new, supposedly revolutionary information systems. Designers "assume that the way people operate with respect to information has to do with only the information. ... But there is a social life that revolves around the information that is much harder to capture and codify," Vinson writes. "We look to verbal and physical queues for validity of what someone is saying. Our business processes have much more than just the inputs and outputs."

Jumping forward but on the same thread:

... in the essay on reengineering ... the authors describe how all the social life around business process is downplayed and often treated as waste. Businesses were re-engineered to remove much of the social lubricant that helped business flow. The essay on knowledge management was hopeful that KM would be a shift away from the intense focus on information and account for the human aspects of knowledge: that knowledge requires a knower. They have a great phrasing: information can easily be written down and transferred. But it is much harder to detach (and transfer) knowledge from the know-er and the context in which that knowledge resides.

The book is still important even after 10 years. It doesn't even mention business intelligence, yet it addresses some of its fundamental problems.

Take a look at The Social Life of Information on Google Books. I also recommend Knowledge Jolt with Jack. Always worthwhile.

1 Comment

Very good points, Tedd. Now, I have a question based on 10 years of technology progress.

The spike of 'BPM tools' (do not take it as BPM) has shown many capabilities that technology did not have 10 years ago. The automation brought by these tools were capable to acquire significant part of the knowledge that composed the human or social factor in the old implementation of business processes and many 'know-ers' had to go away.

Overall, it seems that modern business process management moves toward a manufacturing model that needs BI primarily for the purposes of better automation. I may be wrong in this conclusion and it would be very interesting to learn what exactly “Our business processes have much more than just the inputs and outputs?? Do we miss anything valuable for the enterprise here or this is just a cry about the ancient problem of relationships between the workers and machines?

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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