Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Unintentional Irony: Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence is a brilliant theory, but poorly executed today in most of Corporate America. At it's core, business intelligence has a 4 step value stream:

a) Get lots of data
b) Manipulate it
c) Identify compelling insights
d) Display the insights in a format that helps others understand them
Ironically, a Deloitte guy who writes about BI for a living missed the 4th step in a big way(and admits to it). Can you read the below chart and make any sense of what the takeways are?

I'm continually amazed by people (typically engineers) who spend incredible amounts of time in steps 1-3, and then stop. It's like getting a girl back home at your place after a successful date, having her clothes half off, and then falling asleep before getting to the main event.
Maybe that's why consultants like me still have jobs; to make data look pretty.


Anonymous said...

In this case a bad graph was more valuable than a good graph because I got links from three blogs who mentioned the data was good but the graph was poor. If I'd designed a really good report I would have got more admiration but less links. Now the challenge is on to make future graphs even uglier, thankfully in Excel I have the perfect tool.

Consultant Ninja said...

Vince shows us an unfortunate reality of today's internet culture - that all attention, regardless of whether it makes one look better or worse, is good attention.

Our parents, when we were kids, tried to teach us that not all attention is good attention. Getting an A on the math test is good attention; sticking your hands down your pants is bad attention. Answering the teacher's question is good attention, throwing rocks at girls is bad attention.

Unfortunately,those lessons are lost in today's world where everyone is a self-publisher, and seeking as many eyeballs as they can. In today's world, any publicity is good publicity.

Hate the game, not the player, I say. I, for one, must salute Vincent for playing the game well.

Chris said...

I'm half tempted to send him a copy of "Say It With Charts," but most BI people I know would find that insulting.

Consultant Insider said...

Agreed. It does seem like the web today is all about look at me. I am reading Tufte's "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", and it is hammering home that data can do so much more than just live in a graph. It seems like a criminal waste to take good data and not communicate it properly.

Consultant Ninja said...


I've only seen 2 other consultants (both partners, ironically) out of ~100 where it information visualization has come up in conversation.

So consider yourself way ahead of the pack in independently thinking about how to [gasp] best show data on a page.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009