Category Archives: Business

No silver business intelligence bullets, but still a bright upside

When Tom Petty sang, “Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out” he wasn’t referring to business intelligence (BI) reporting but he might have been. Current generation reporting engines, AKA data visualization or data discovery tools, market their products with statements like these, emphasizing quick development and ease of use:

  • “The democratization of data is here. In minutes, create an interactive viz (sic) and embed it in your website. Anyone can do it— and it’s free.” (Tableau Products Page)
  • “Easy yet sophisticated report design empowers your employees to design professional and telling reports in minutes not days” (Windward)

I like these tools, and I do believe that they can provide a leaner, more productive, and more informative approach to BI reporting than some more mature products.  However, none is a silver bullet for all data integration and reporting woes. Continue reading

Learning to learn

“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five!”

– Groucho Marx

Recently my colleague Sara Shelton posted an article listing non-technical things we IT specialists need to do to maintain our careers. Each of the nine items on Sara’s list is a key to IT professional success. One particularly worthy of a drill down was learning:

“It is critical for the technical professional to hold themselves accountable…to learn new languages, new tools, emerging technical trends, and best practices.  With technologies changing more than ever, technical professionals need to focus on their own learning to stay on par with or ahead of the curve.” Continue reading

Abstracting and recombining all the way to the bank

In the past I’ve never understood what people really mean they say “think outside the box” but Jim Harris, in a recent OCDQ blog post, helped me figure it out.

Mr. Harris ends with this provocative line: “the bottom line is Google and Facebook have socialized data in order to capitalize data as a true corporate asset.”  The post starts with a cold war analogy and proceeds to describe how Facebook and Google have made big money as “internet advertising agencies:” offering free services with which users (like us) serve up personal data in return for use of the service, then selling advertising space based on our data (hopefully anonymized).

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But is it art? Skills of the next generation BI professional

There’s a data explosion going on and perhaps the strangest result is that business intelligence analysts need to become more artistic.

Recently my friend Ben Harden directed my attention to a post from Steve Bennett of Oz Analytics on the future of BI. One challenge to analysts that Mr. Bennett cited was the unprecedented explosion in data quantity to “an almost inconceivable 35 trillion gigabytes” by 2020.  Part of the solution, according to the post, is “actionable insight”, as illustrated by Harry Beck when he created the now-iconic map of the London underground network from the previous rather spaghetti-ish version.  What Mr. Beck did was to distinguish significant from insignificant detail for the intended audience and present that detail in a clear and appealing way.

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Building a writing culture in application development

One of the key skills needed in today’s IT shop is communication, and one of the best ways to improve ability to communicate is to write blog posts and articles.

In spite of “IT guy” stereotypes, communication and analytical thinking about business are among the most important skills in application development. Developers, analysts, and managers require ability to interact effectively with business people, to conceptualize solutions that match business needs, critically evaluate those solutions, and effectively make the case for one of them. Of course this is true of the overall project business case, but more importantly it applies to the daily “IT guy” to business person conversations that happen throughout analysis, design, development, and testing. Continue reading

The Grateful Dead as strategic managers

The March 2010 issue of The Atlantic features an article called “Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead.” It’s a great read, especially the second half, which tells of the band’s innovations in organization, fan loyalty, and, perhaps counterintuitively, creating value by freely giving away their product. The success of these measures seems self evident: the Dead were “one of the most profitable bands of all time” and almost singlehandedly created an entire product category, jam bands. As a result, the article recounts, the Dead are replacing companies like Southwest Airlines and GE as management training examples of strategic innovators.

As good as it is, to me the article conjured an unlikely vision of the Dead as business men in hippie drag self-consciously making strategy decisions that altered the marketing landscape. I agree that the Dead took the actions cited on purpose, but I believe core product, not marketing strategy, consumed the band’s energies during its formative and peak years.   Could it be that their innovative market strategies grew organically from a quality product, where quality included the entire fan experience? Continue reading