Written By: Rick Beers - Senior Director, Fusion Middleware Product Management
If you think you know everything you need to know
about Business Intelligence technologies and decision making, prepare to be a
bit unsettled. I am, and it didn’t take much to get me there.
Most recently, paper in the CIO Journal
section of the WSJ entitled ‘Inner
Workings of the Executive Mind’ explored the
psychology of executive decision making, drawing from recent advancements in
neuroimaging, in which scientists map the brain’s processing of tasks ranging
from the tactical to the most strategic. What they found reinforces what most
of us have believed for quite some time: there is a science to ‘gut feel’.
Quoting from the paper: “…most of us assume that
when we try to solve problems, we're drawing on the logical parts of our
brains. But, in fact, great strategists seem to draw on the emotional and
intuitive parts of their brain much more”.
are similar to views expressed by economist/psychologist Daniel Kahneman in
2011's 'Thinking, Fast and Slow', which explored decision making patterns
and, specifically, that the mind intuits first, then narrows choices, then
decides based upon facts. Or, that facts are often used to evaluate the
outcomes of intuition rather than at the start of an objective decision making
could dismiss such things as academic and not relevant in the practical world,
they are in fact disruptive in many ways. Think
business intelligence systems and processes that we all interact more each day.
They are structured to drive increasing amounts of information at decision
makers, under the belief that 'more, faster' is better. But the mind wants
context and landscape first around which to logically (or emotionally!) develop
and evaluate options around which to position data.
Is it perhaps possible that Big, Fast, or Real time data could actually lead to
increasingly poorer decisions as our intuitive qualities are circumvented?
Consider last year’s
Accenture publication ‘Analytics in Action: Breakthroughs and Barriers on the
Journey to ROI’, which provides
results and analysis following a survey of Analytics Practitioners. On page 6
in the section entitled ‘Data Driven Insights’ is the finding that “.…while
more than six in ten users rate faster better decision making as a priority,
only one in four habitually rely on data as a source of inspiration or basis for
decision making.” While increasingly effective in measuring past results and
predicting future events, BI’s ability to improve or even change the way
decisions are made is still elusive.
But things are beginning to
change in a big way. In memory computing, and the outcome of information tied
to business processes and within a situational or role-based context will
finally deliver upon the dream of fact-based decision making.
Business Intelligence technologies, and the
management processes that utilize them, have been evolving since the earliest
such systems in the 1970’s. The chart to the left proposes that BI Evolution
from a business perspective has progressed through three levels:
· Level 1: Reactive
· Level 2: Predictive
· Level 3: Intuitive
It’s important to note that this evolution
does not imply that the singular ideal is the ‘Intuitive’ level. Each level is
needed for different reasons. The degree to which depends upon the organization
and the purpose. Very few would argue, for example, that intuition has a role
in Performance and Operational Reporting.
Translating that innovation into true
business value will require us to increasingly focus on the business
perspective. Many will say that BI still feels too much like an IT Project. For
it to go to the next level, where a true transformation occurs in the decision
making process (Level 4?), business needs to be truly engaged as equal partners.
We’re getting there to be sure, but my gut says we’ve still got a way to go.