Time for a little reflection

I find it helpful from time to time to step back, take a lingering look at where I am and what I’m doing, then remind myself of what really matters in life. Perhaps I’m more introspective than most, but I believe the world would benefit from a bit more self-evaluation, both by individuals and by the collective bodies that affect our world, including businesses. I advocate more than the annual development of a budget or the formulaic and superficial construction of a strategic plan. I am talking about seriously asking variations of the same big questions that we wrestle with as individuals, like “Why are we here?”, “Are we giving something useful to the world?”, “Are we doing good work?”, “Are we living our values?”, and “Are we fulfilling our mission and is that mission worthwhile?”

Here is where I’m going with this: It’s high time that the companies that provide the products and services of business intelligence (BI) ask themselves these hard questions as well, because in many ways they have lost touch with their reason for being and have fallen short of their mission, especially when compared to the critical and still largely unmet needs surrounding information – its meaning and use.

Customers spend an enormous amount of time and money on BI technology, only to have it deliver too little far too often because of a failure in the very last stage of the process: the attempt to make sense of that information and the communication of its meaning to those responsible for doing something about it. You could spare no expense in developing an award-winning data warehouse with the most pristine, meaningful data imaginable, and implement the best BI software on the most powerful hardware known to humankind, but if the people who access the data, determine its meaning, and present the results to decision makers can’t take that last step effectively, your entire BI investment is worthless.

But who is doing something about this problem or even talking about it? Hardly anyone in the BI industry is saying a word. They are busy talking about lots of important stuff, but not this. Things that matter far less distract the BI industry from its essential goal. Marketing often gets caught up in communications that are superficial, constructed entirely of buzzwords and clichés, obscuring in bombastic messages what could be expressed quite simply and clearly.

If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to read my two May articles, which both touch indirectly on the concerns that I’ve expressed in this blog entry:

Excel’s New Charting Engine: Preview of an Opportunity Missed

Hard Facts: Why Are Business Decisions So Seldom Based On Them?

Take care,


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