Search This Blog

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Questions and Answers

No learning is taking place if there are no questions.

How good does it have to be? Good enough.

Good enough begs for more questions. Who will decide? What will they base the decision on? What will be used for comparison? What is the standard? Each of these questions will lead to more questions and--here is the key--someone will tire and yield the field.

The answerer, let's call him A, and the questioner, Q, will continue the dialogue until either A or Q tires or loses interest or runs out of time. When the process doesn't run to completion the result--let's say BI, but it could be almost anything--will be based on whatever perspective Q has developed from the answers already received.

But here we are back at "how good does it have to be?" How many questions and answers does it take? Of course it varies with the quality of both the questions and the answers. Some people are good at 20 questions and some never get it. In order to zero in, we should look at the track record.

If you're A and you're never satisfied--never get what you need--no matter who is in the Q role, then I suggest that we focus in on A as the probable source of whatever problems there are. If you're Q and what you're delivering is never good enough, then we should focus on Q.

What's your track record? Can you offer any insights? Do you need to stick with it longer? What can you do to keep the other guy engaged longer?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tools and Products

Very briefly, I have been seeing many instances of confusion about tools and products. If you're going to make chisels or scissors, you really have to keep the eventual product firmly in mind.

A tool maker who loses track of the application for his tool runs the risk of producing something that has no utility. Something that has no utility or whose utility can't be easily recognized is not a tool. It may be an art object or it may just be a poorly designed piece of junk. It may also simply become so costly that the product can no longer afford it.

How good does it have to be? Good enough is the right answer. As with so many things in life, the right answer isn't nearly as satisfying as we might have hoped.

More on Perspective

I worked for a company that had the hardest time getting new things started on schedule. Some new product or line of business would be announced with a grand opening date. Often the date was only a few weeks away. The problem was--over and over again--that the people who had to actually make the new thing happen found out about it at the time of the announcement.

So guess what happened? Either the schedule slipped and slipped again or the doors opened on something that was incomplete and holding all the pieces together was extremely hard on everyone involved. Is that what you guessed?

The root cause of this, as it turned out, was lack of the needed perspectives. Highly placed persons believed that they could make all the commitments for many of the enabling functions. In principle, this was true and needs were recognized and responded to AT A HIGH LEVEL. As any general or coach will tell you, the best strategy is only as good as the troops or players who have to execute it.

When we finally got a group together to analyze the situation, it became clear that no one person could know all that must be known to plan and implement the project. What was required was a meeting--as soon as possible--of representatives of all the business functions involved as well as those who are involved in everything (facilities, telecom, network...). All the perspectives only emerged in a group setting where people with specialized knowledge could bounce ideas around. Personal perspective expands in a group setting.

Again I ask, what perspectives are required for a successful BI implementation?

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I have come to view perspective as a (if not the) key to success. Before I can discuss perspective, though, I guess I had better define what I mean by success.

Success means
  • the achievement of some agreed-upon goal or
  • demonstrable progress toward a defined objective.

In life, success means doing the above while remaining within your vision. If you don't have a vision--some ideal that guides your decisions--then you are allowing others to define success for you.

In order to achieve success, then, it's important to understand who else is involved. If no one else need be involved in your achievement, then we're talking about a PR (personal record) and one of those is irrelevant to anyone other than you. Now, if you establish a trend of new PRs or if your PR is also a WR (world record), then others will take notice and may want to become involved. Let's leave aside these kinds of individual achievements for now because they are individual and the definition of success that we are using calls for "agreed-upon" goals or "defined" objectives. That implies more than one person is involved.

So who else is involved? There is a commonly used term, stakeholder, that labels a relationship between a person and a goal or objective. People who are stakeholders have an interest in this particular success (positive or negative). There are many experts on identification and management of stakeholder relationships, so I'm going to leave further discussion of stakeholders up to them.

My conviction, developed from years in the trenches and awareness (a combination of observation + curiosity + caring + reflection), is that perspective may be the single most important dimension affecting success.

For one thing, each of your stakeholders will have a perspective and it will be what you need to understand in order to bring that person into your team. But beyond stakeholders, there are still perspectives that must be discovered and managed. If we miss a particular perspective, we may miss or misunderstand entire classes of potential stakeholders.

A perspective may be based on a functional role. For example, there is a perspective associated with "father" that is different from that of "husband". We are all capable of juggling several perspectives--that's what we refer to when we say things like "on the other hand..." They are also based in part on prior experience. The father of four has a different perspective than the father of one or the fater-to-be. The best outcomes (successes) come when we are able to include as many perspectives as possible AND avoid excluding any that shed critical light on our effort.

What are the perspectives that must be part of a business intelligence success?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I never had any intention of becoming a blogger--not that there's anything wrong with blogging. It may be too little, too late and I certainly feel like the boy with his finger in the dike, but there needs to be a voice of reason in cyberspace when it comes to the latest HOT topic, Business Intelligence.

I am leveraging more than 20 years of data management experience here, so I'm going to try to avoid the bling and get to the meat. Since so much of the BI (short for business intelligence) stream is bling, frills, bells and whistles, I should be able to keep these relatively short.

I'll inaugurate this spot with the assertion that if there is no meat to what you're seeing--if the information isn't "actionable", then it doesn't matter how it's presented. That means that if you've blown your budget on presentation (ex., dashboard) tools but you've never spent a cent on a data quality assessment and you don't have process consistency or even documented processes, then you won't get intelligence.

That's enough for an intro. More tomorrow.