Reflections on the practice of business intelligence.
by Wayne Eckerson Eckerson is the author of many in-depth reports, a columnist for several business and technology magazines, and a noted speaker, blogger, and the author of the best-selling book Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) and TDWI’s BI Maturity Model.
Designing dashboards is not unlike decorating a room in your house. Most homeowners design as they purchase objects to place in the room. When we buy a rug, we select the nicest rug; when we pick out wall paint, we pick the most appealing color; when we select chairs and tables, we find the most elegant ones we can afford. Although each individual selection makes sense, collectively the objects clash or compete for attention.
Smart homeowners (with enough cash) hire interior decorators who filter your tastes and preferences through principles of interior design to create a look and feel in which every element works together harmoniously and emphasizes what really matters. For example, the design might highlight an elegant antique coffee table by selecting carpets, couches, and curtains that complement its color and texture.
Posted on July 27, 20100 comments
(Caution: This blog may contain ideas that are hazardous to your career.)
I’ve argued in previous blogs that business intelligence (BI) professionals must think more like business people and less like IT managers if they are to succeed. However, while many BI professionals have their hearts in the right place, their actions speak differently. They know what they need to do but can’t seem to extricate themselves from an IT mindset. That takes revolutionary thinking and a little bit of luck.
Posted on June 25, 20102 comments
Data federation is not a new technique. The notion of virtualizing multiple back-end data sources has been around for a long time, reemerging every decade or so with a new name and mission.
Database Gateways. In the 1980s, database vendors introduced database gateways that transparently query multiple databases on the fly, making it easier for application developers to build transaction applications in a heterogeneous database environment. Oracle and IBM still sell these types of gateways.
Posted on June 15, 20101 comments
People think analytics is about getting the right answers. In truth, it’s about asking the right questions.
Analysts can find the answer to just about any question. So, the difference between a good analyst and a mediocre one is the questions they choose to ask. The best questions test long-held assumptions about what makes the business tick. The answers to these questions drive concrete changes to processes, resulting in lower costs, higher revenue, or better customer service.
Posted on June 10, 20100 comments
Business analysts are a key resource for creating an agile organization. These MBA- or PhD-accredited, number-crunchers can quickly unearth insights and correlations so executives can make critical decisions. Yet, one decision that executives haven’t analyzed thoroughly is the best way to organize business analysts to enhance their productivity and value.
Distributed Versus Centralized
Traditionally, executives either manage business analysts as a centralized, shared service or allow each business unit or department to hire and manage their own business analysts. Ultimately, neither a centralized or distributed approach is optimal.
Posted on May 23, 20100 comments
To create high-performance BI teams, we need to attract the right people. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Skills Versus Qualities
Inner Drive. First, don’t just hire people to fill technical slots. Yes, you should demand a certain level of technical competence. For example, everyone on the award winning BI team at Continental Airlines in 2004 had training as a database administrator. But these days, technical competence is simply a ticket to play the game. To win the game, you need people who are eager to learn, highly adaptable, and passionate about what they do.
Posted on May 20, 20100 comments
I’m perplexed why some BI vendors treat the metrics in their dashboards differently than the metrics in their scorecards. When you look at their scorecard products, all the metrics have targets associated with them and display color-coded traffic lights and trending symbols. But when you examine their dashboards, the metrics are just simply charts and tables without performance context. These vendors act as if dashboards are simply a collection of charts and tables—a metrics portal, if you will—not a bonafide performance management system.
Posted on May 11, 20100 comments
Author’s Note: Given the positive reaction to my last blog, “Purple People: The Key to BI Success”, I thought I’d publish an excerpt from the second edition of my book, “Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business” due out this fall. This excerpt focuses on the responsibility of the business to close the business-IT gap, something that doesn’t get enough attention these days.
Posted on May 6, 20100 comments
I went to a small, liberal arts college in western Massachusetts whose mascot is a “purple cow” -- presumably chosen because of the large number of cows that graze in the foothills of nearby mountains that glisten a faint purple as the afternoon sun fades into twilight.
Although our mascot didn’t strike fear in the hearts of our athletic opponents, that was fine by us. We were an academic institution first and foremost. But, it didn’t hurt that our sports teams tended to win more often than not.
Posted on April 29, 20103 comments
Creating performance metrics is as much art as science. To guide you in your quest, here are 12 characteristics of effective performance metrics.
1. Strategic. To create effective performance metrics, you must start at the end point--with the goals, objectives or outcomes you want to achieve--and then work backwards. A good performance metric embodies a strategic objective. It is designed to help the organization monitor whether it is on track to achieve its goals. The sum of all performance metrics in organization (along with the objectives they support) tells the story of the organization’s strategy.
Posted on April 19, 20101 comments