Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Business Intelligence and Spreadsheet Redux

A recent survey released by Nigel Pendse and the Business Application Research Center (2009, “BI Survey 8,” BARC) seems to confirm that business intelligence (BI) is less the domain of information technology (IT) than it is of "disenfranchised" spreadsheet-users. Stephen Swoyer of The Data Warehouse Institute (2009, “Report Debunks BI Myth”) offered this commentary on the BARC survey results:
Business intelligence vendors like to talk up a 20/80 split -- i.e., in any given organization, only 20 percent of users are actually consuming BI technologies; the remaining 80 percent are disenfranchised. According to "BI Survey 8," however, most shops clock in at far below the 20 percent rate. In any given BI-using organization…, just over 8 percent of employees are actually using BI tools. Even in industries that have aggressively adopted BI tools (e.g., wholesale, banking, and retail), usage barely exceeds 11 percent.
James Standon of nModal Solutions (2009, “Business Intelligence Adoption Low and Falling”) concludes that analysts tend to choose BI tools that are best able to get the job done, and more often than not, that tool is the electronic spreadsheet:
Big business intelligence seems to think that BI for the masses is a tool problem - something in how their portal works, or how many rows of data per second their appliance can process. Sure, if the tools are hard to use or learn, it's a factor, but I think more often than not business intelligence isn't used because it's not providing what is required… Often, people use Excel [Microsoft] because last week they didn't know exactly what they needed, and it is a tool that lets them build it themselves this week when the boss wants the answer and there is a decision to make. With all its flaws, it's still the most adopted business intelligence tool in the world.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sharing vs Collaborating Organizations

Recently, I came across a dichotomy in terminology that was not simply instructive, but explanatory. The terms to be compared were “sharing” and “collaborating.” According to the Free Dictionary, sharing means “to participate in, use, enjoy, or experience jointly or in turns,” while collaborating means “to work with another or others on a joint project.” The implied word analogies are instructive, as sharing is to participate, use, enjoy, and experience, as collaborating is to work, produce, achieve, and attain.

So, what is my point? What I am trying to say is that sharing is not the same as collaborating, especially when it comes to work. Too often, co-workers are willing to share data and information, but their motivation in sharing is merely to participate, use, enjoy, and otherwise experience an outcome devoid of personal responsibility. Conversely, co-workers who collaborate in a joint effort are working to achieve some ends to which each collaborator extends some degree of personal responsibility.

With these distinctions in mind, how would you describe your organization of interest? Is it a sharing organization or a collaborating organization? Is the purpose of the organization lost in confounding experiences and participation, or is the purpose of your organization found in joint work endeavoring to achieve a common purpose or cause?

In my past writings, I have argued that the future of enterprise depends upon its capacity to be inclusive, transparent, and inventive. But, to achieve these ends, the enterprise must first transcend the passive sharing inclinations of its members to become instead a vibrant collaborating organization where work is defined by its combined efforts to achieve common goals. While it may be fun to share, collaboration is what advances enterprise to a higher cause.