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Business Intelligence - Corporate Oxymoron or Capability

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BI has been around as a term since 1958  -  an output of an IBM researcher and further brought into the public domain by Howard Dresner (the aforementioned facts come from my favourite on-line reference source) but the question is - have businesses become more intelligent from the legions of technology thrown at Business Analytics, Data Warehousing and related  data churning approaches.

You may ask why am I concerning myself about this? Well I find myself intimately concerned with how large amounts of data are consumed by non-IT people and the tools we (at MS) offer them.

Within both our EPM and business data graphic offerings (alright MS Project Server and Visio) the amount of BI that we are using or facilitating has moved to a new, more sophisticated level. Now I demo this capability on a regular basis and I love it, but I do get asked in various situation can we do 'this' or can we get at 'that'. Most of these questions arise from a fundamental lack of understanding of the importance of (a) having, (b) understanding and (c) using your data model consistently and thus ensuring the on-going quality of that data.

I dined with a friend last week who works for a large UK bank currently seeking to integrate 'bought in' operations; they are faced with the fact that they both really don't understand their own data (which goes back decades) and certainly have little knowledge of the data they have recently acquired. Yet more data silo's being created.

I showed him the full capabilities of my beloved Visio and he was stunned at the lack of internal understanding of this type of tool.   

If you have the quality data the industry has the solutions, to paraphrase colleagues of mine, 'Advance Business Intelligence made simple' is deliverable every day to every user, so don't be Oxymoronic just be Capable.

View from the bottom

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I've sort of fallen off the wagon. Once you stop blogging its sort of hard to start again but here goes:

For the last two and a half years I have been working at Microsoft, almost entirely outside of the UK. For an old Lotus Notes guy this may seem a bit heretical but in fact our technology today, to my mind, is more aligned to the vision of collaboration that Notes and Domino promised but on the whole failed to deliver to a broad market.

I am not blogging here to promote MS or the products I care about (Microsoft Enterprise Project Management and Visio for the record) we do that very effectively elsewhere but I do spend a large part of most working days talking to customers and partners and funnily enough we often end up often focussing on Collaboration, Process Management, Resource Management and Dashboards.

Whether in Finland, Belgium or Portugal (or nine other countries), talking to public sector or commercial organisations getting a grip on the above structural issues often form part of my daily discussions.

'Where do we start?' I am frequently asked. Frankly I am no longer surprised at the question because the answer to me is self-evident: 'From where you are now'

This might seem a little unhelpful but the fact is, most organisations are doing projects on a stand-alone basis or creating (on some file share or storage area) process diagrams or such like and need to bring current practise into a controlled, collaborative environment.

In my view the progression is often best characterised as 'how do we easily accommodate todays bad practise and evolve it into best of breed' as often introducing grand new systems fails. Managing massive business change however well planned is incredibly hard to deliver.

I am lucky, the tool-set we offer today at MS really supports evolutionary change (if you want a revolution go ahead but I for one am not joining) and therefore we can today deliver on the promise. Proving and delivering the technological promise is frankly only the beginning. Its these issues I face daily that I am going to focus on in future posts.

Over the coming weeks and into the future I will examine the differences between Project Management, Managing of Project, Enterprise Project Management and Business Data-driven graphics.

Yes, it will be through the prism of the MS eyes I wear now but it will also be my views and not those of MS. I am not a blog regurgitation machine.

As ever I am interested in your views and if we can enter some dialogue it would be great.


The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinions of the authors and do not represent either of our employer's views in any way. All postings and code samples are provided 'AS IS' with no warranties, and confer no rights.

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