You’ve probably noticed that my approach to writing, both in general and especially when reviewing software, is not typical. I write in the first person, referring to myself as “I,” rather than as some unidentified voice or indirectly as “the author.” I want you to feel as if I’m speaking to you and I want to take full responsibility for everything that I say.
When I talk about products, even when reviewing them negatively, I refer to them and their makers by name. This includes individuals, such as Andrew Cardno of Bis2, the creator of this company’s new Super Graphics, which I reviewed in the edition of the Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter that was published today. I don’t do this to make it personal—it is personal, and I choose to acknowledge the fact. It’s too easy to hide behind indirect references, pretending that products are made by abstract entities called companies. Real people are behind the products. Real people are behind marketing campaigns. Real people are behind every decision that’s made in a company. I believe that if I know who these people are, I should acknowledge them, not only when speaking favorably but unfavorably as well. I believe that, however difficult and at times painful, this is an act of respect, much like looking a fellow directly in the eyes when talking to him.
Just as governments are improved by transparency, by holding politicians and other decision makers liable for their acts, the business intelligence industry likewise benefits when we put faces on the organizations and products that comprise it. We should take responsibility for our work and our decisions. When we screw up we shouldn’t hide behind obfuscations such as “mistakes were made.” When we disagree with one another, we should face one another directly and argue our positions. No matter what the cost, if we care about this industry, we should always state the truth as we know it, not what’s convenient or self-serving. When a company makes false claims, we shouldn’t excuse those claims as “marketing,” as if that somehow justifies deceit. Lies and products that don’t work are toxic. Given the sad track record of the business intelligence industry to deliver on its promise, it’s no wonder people are wary. Our industry will benefit from honesty, directness, a personal sense of responsibility, and, of course, from products, services, and opinions that are actually worthwhile. Not only worthwhile to ourselves but especially to those who rely on those products, services, and opinions. This is the “next generation BI” that I’d like to see—not new jargon to reanimate tired old ideas, but real solutions that help people make sense of information, present it clearly, and use it to make wise decisions.