If it’s October, it must be time for IBM’s annual Information On Demand (IOD) conference. Initiated 3 years ago, IOD has become an indispensable event for any Information and Knowledge Management (I&KM) professional who has deployed IBM’s sprawling data management solution portfolio.
And IBM doesn’t disappoint: each annual conference is jampacked with important announcements that improve the vendor’s positioning in the forefront of today’s information-driven economy. If anything, IOD has become so crowded with IBM announcements that some important events or themes can easily be overlooked or given less emphasis than they deserve.
I know I am in the right business. Over 25 years ago, when I was a junior programmer on Wall Street, I heard the CEO of Citibank, Walter Wriston, say during one of the company meetings that “information about a transaction was going to become more important than a transaction itself”. I pondered on his prediction of the impending information revolution and decided to get into the business. I have not felt sorry ever since.
That is until now. I saw a good portion of my savings plan evaporate, some friends loosing their jobs on Wall Street in droves, and out of control media predicting, what basically amounts to, the end of the world (well, at least economic and social structures) as we know it.
What went wrong? While I am obviously not qualified to comment on the disastrous chain of events and a failure at every single link of the entire credit value chain (yes, I am not going to mention unreasonable social programs, uneducated consumers, greedy bankers and investors, ineffective risk rating agencies, and government regulation paralysis – did I miss anyone?), I am somewhat qualified to partially blame failed Business Intelligence at some levels of the credit value chain.
I am appalled at what has been happening in the economy lately. Seems like we are moving from one crisis management to another. First it was the oil price increase crisis, now it’s the credit markets crisis, while the oil crisis seems to have disappeared. There are revolutionary approaches to solving these crises being thrown around very lightly and carelessly these days: nationalization of certain industries, redistribution of wealth and other extremist approaches. Haven’t we learned from history? Don’t we know by now that revolutions do not work? It’s been proven time and time again in Soviet Union, China, Cuba and many other nations that revolutions only lead to disasters: terror, holocausts, starvation, turning societies and social structures upside down, and people leading miserable existence. I know. I lived in one of those countries. I do not want to live in another country going through revolution.
Most modern large enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) tools are very robust and feature rich these days. Up until a few years ago BI users could blame vendors for most of their BI ills. This is getting harder and harder to do. Many of the BI tools, especially the ones reviewed in our latest BI Wave, are very function rich, robust, stable and scalable. However, while the tools have really improved for the better over the last 5, typical BI issues and challenges remain the same as when I first tackled them as a BI programmer over 25 years ago: silo’d implementations, incomplete data sets, dirty data, poor management and governance, heavy reliance on IT, and many more.
We are right now in the middle of running a BI survey, exploring these and other BI issues. While the results are still pouring in, the preliminary findings are 100% supportive of the evidence we’ve collected qualitatively and anecdotally over the past few years:
Not all data is available in BI applications
Data is less than 100% trustworthy
BI applications are somewhat difficult to learn, use and navigate
Most of the reports and dashboards are developed by IT, not end users