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 Neil Raden
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Profile of Neil Raden

News & Commentary Posts: 60
Articles by Neil Raden

Reality Distortion Blogs

7/2/2010
I've stopped reading about 80% of the blogs I was subscribed to because I came to the conclusion that there wasn't enough useful content in them. In fact, many of them were not much more than self-promotion and unfounded opinion. Those are the easy ones to spot. But there is a bigger problem...

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Bad Decisions Are Contagious

1/11/2010
Promoters of BI and analytics still insist on helping people by "getting the right information to the right person at the right time."... The trouble is, people bring all sorts of experiences, prejudices, flawed reasoning and emotion to the decisions they make.

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Who Needs Analytics PhDs? Grow Your Own

10/26/2009
Analytics, whatever that means, has emerged as the hot topic all over our industry... According to the conventional wisdom, very special experts, quants we'll call them, are needed because mere mortals can't handle this stuff... But I don't buy this.

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SPSS Is Not the Story; IBM's Vision for Analytics Is

7/31/2009
The media and my fellow analysts have been breathlessly touting IBM's acquisition of SPSS ($1.2B) as some sort groundbreaking to a new era of analytics. I don't see it that way... If anyone thinks the acquisition of SPSS marks IBM's serious entry into analytics, they've been sleeping...

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WolframAlpha: Lots of Potential, Short on Meaning

7/10/2009
WolframAlpha does not rely on semantic technology, neither Semantic Web nor Linked Data concepts, and it possesses no underlying ontology driving its structure or information... Because knowledge isn't static, one can assume that new knowledge and knowledge domains will flow in too quickly for Wolfram's current "curating" approach.

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IBM System S: Not for Everyone

5/20/2009
IBM's announcements about "System S" along with its "Smarter Planet" campaign have really caught my attention... It's quite an achievement, so far as I can tell, but the breathless enthusiasm of the press/bloggers/analysts has me a little put off. Here's why...

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Ventana Gets Enterprise Decision Management

4/14/2009
When James Taylor and I wrote "Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions," we knew it was going to be a lonely outpost for a while... So I was surprised, even delighted to see that Ventana Research has recently come out with a couple of papers on EDM...

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From 'BI' to 'Business Analytics,' It's All Fluff

3/29/2009
I was there in Washington, D.C., last week at the SAS Global Executive Forum when Jim Davis gave his much-talked-about, business-intelligence-is-dead, business-analytics-is-the-future presentation. "I don't believe (business intelligence is) where the future is; the future is in business analytics," he said. I thought at the time that it was a little silly.

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Semantic Web: Snake Oil or Balm for What Ails Us?

2/10/2009
Our Business Intelligence industry is held back by a chronic lack of techniques to unify information. I saw in semantic Web technology a means to address that. I don't know if the Semantic Web will ever happen... I do know that ontologies appear to be a superior way for representing information, sharing it, reasoning from it and avoiding lots of duplication of effort. I call this making the data smarter so the applications can be dumber.

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Gut Versus Analytics: What's the Real Story?

1/30/2009
A recent article in CIO by Thomas Wailgum entitled "To Hell With Business Intelligence: 40 Percent of Execs Trust Gut" caught my attention. This was driven by some recent (separate) research by Accenture and Forrester to examine how business managers are using analytics, as opposed to... gut reaction, gut feeling, gut instinct and, related but even more evocative, butterflies in the stomach.

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MicroStrategy in Perspective

1/19/2009
Cindi Howson and Mark Smith already weighed in with their impressions about MicroStrategy World and the impending release of MicroStrategy 9... but I have a different perspective, one that is borne of a history with MicroStrategy that goes back fifteen years. My review, with that perspective in mind, is this:

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Surround the Warehouse: Prediction for 2009

12/11/2008
The data warehouse has been positioned as the sole source of analytical data in organizations, but that is changing. Rather than trying to remodel the data warehouse to accommodate fresher and more detailed data (operational systems, process logs, etc.), these data sources will operate in parallel as complementary feeds to analytics. It takes too long and is too expensive to expand the data warehouse concept to do this.

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Process Intelligence, CEP and Operational BI

11/11/2008
In case you haven't heard it yet, here comes a new product category: Process Intelligence. But what does it mean? All of these terms overlap: Operational BI, Pervasive BI, Operational Intelligence, Process Intelligence, BAM, CEP (Complex Event Processing), Decision Management, Decision Services. Arguments over definitions tend to be vigorous for two reasons...

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Cocktail Conversation

10/27/2008
I don't hear this expression much anymore, but my wife used to use it to describe the kind of chatter one can make about a subject, and seem knowledgeable, but possess only a very superficial grasp of it... Between conferences, blogs and webinars, I'm hearing a lot of cocktail conversation lately.

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Enterprise 2.0: What Really Changes?

10/6/2008
I was asked to be a part of a panel discussing Enterprise 2.0 platforms... What I picked up is that the idea of building community is pretty key, as well as understanding the changing sensitivities and work habits of the younger workforce... But where do people find the time to use social networking on top of their already jammed schedules?

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Can Roles and Agility Coexist in Oracle Fusion Middleware?

9/29/2008
I listened carefully for the better part of two-and-a-half hours last week to Thomas Kurian, Sr. VP of Oracle, present the entire product set and positioning of Oracle's Fusion Middleware. I liked almost everything I heard... but down at the bottom of this stack, he raised the issue of "unified UI for Enterprise Applications controlled by roles." This is where he lost me...

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Wherefore Analytics on Wall Street? An Homage to Hy Minsky

9/15/2008
When it comes to analytics, Wall Street is clearly the leader. The best of the best head there after school to grab six-figure starting salaries. Some even see seven figures, based on their performance. Wall Street analytics represent the exemplar of what is possible for an analytic culture... So why is Wall Street melting down?

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Just a User

9/2/2008
When you sign up for a Webinar, or even just register to download a white paper, you can be sure that you will shortly get a follow-up phone call. The caller almost never has any inkling what you or their client does, so the questions are sometimes amusing, other times pretty dumb. I haven't gotten so old and cranky yet that this ruins my day, but I got a call last week that was notable...

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MapReduce: And You Were There

8/29/2008
There's been a lot of buzz lately about Google's MapReduce framework for speeding up the processing of large datasets. It makes you wonder, did Google just dream this up in last couple years while all of the database vendors were sleeping? Or, paraphrasing Isaac Newton, were they standing on the shoulders of giants? The answer is, both.

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Requirements Gathering: Don't Be Naïve

7/28/2008
Whenever the subject of business requirements for data warehousing and BI comes up, I try to bite my tongue because it's always at a time in the project when expectations are high and people are hopeful. I hate to rain on their parade, but this is one of those areas where best practices are often worst practices.

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Semantics and SOA: Don't Give Up

5/28/2008
Although I don't remember when I first heard the term Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), I remember researching Web services around 2000. Back then... the sky seemed the limit... Platform independence, long-running transactions, and asynchronous processes - it would be like world peace. Unfortunately, it hasn't really panned out yet.

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The Most Important Thing I Learned About Consulting Is to Watch Ghostbusters

5/22/2008
Ghostbusters is perhaps the single best training film for consultants I've come across. In simple words, they embody all the right stuff for a successful consultant which is, lets face it, a real craft, not just something to do between jobs. With motivational thoughts about teamwork, confidence, authenticity, client management and the projection of competence, these guys have it knocked...

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The Search Engine Miracle is Wearing Thin

5/14/2008
Search isn't that great anymore. For one thing, it's become so commercial that it's really more like an ad search engine... Why can't I ask a search engine questions and get sent to exactly the places with the answers, not 10,000 hits? Why can't the search engines help me assemble the information I need?

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In Search of 'The Scotty Effect'

5/12/2008
Do you remember the movie "Star Trek IV," when the crew needs to go back to the 20th century to find two hump back whales? When that movie was released, twenty-five years ago, we already had SAS to build models and do statistical work and we could write reports in FOCUS or any number of other tools. Compared to the things we can do today, this may seem primitive, but how different is it really?

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Stop Managing From Scarcity!

5/7/2008
Over the past few years, I've been suggesting that people stop managing from scarcity. The cost of hardware has fallen so sharply that we should reevaluate our methodologies and designs that sacrifice function for resource efficiency. In data warehousing, we still create summarized versions of detailed data... depriving people of the analytical content of the whole picture... Is this really necessary?

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On the Technology Horizon: Ice? Racetracks?

5/5/2008
It's no mystery why diamonds are often referred to as "ice." Sure, they look like ice, but have you ever touched one and noticed it was cooler than you thought it would be? It really is cooler because the diamond's stiff crystalline structure actually shield the atoms from heat vibrations. So what does this have to do with information technology? A lot.

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The Fall of the Relational Empire

4/28/2008
Relational is given a lot of credit because of its staying power and incumbency, which is often confused with universal usefulness. But if you step back and think about it, there is nothing special about a relational database, and in the world as we see it evolving, the physical structure, and even location of data, no longer matters...

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Welcome to 'Competing on Decisions'

4/21/2008
Perhaps you noticed that I renamed this blog "Competing on Decisions" from "Addicted to BI."... I've come to the conclusion that informing people (BI) is part of an incomplete cycle. If we as a company make an investment in BI, it isn't the informing of people that matters, it's what happens next. The decisions.

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Databases ALIVE!

4/18/2008
It wasn't so long ago that if you were considering a data warehouse, your choices for a relational database platform were limited to Oracle, IBM, Teradata or Microsoft... Database choices are now back, and then some!

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Eight Comebacks on 'BI and Technology'

4/14/2008
Excel comes with lots of baggage, and that has to be addressed. If there is a company policy that you don't wear flip-flops to work, why can't there be a company policy that unaudited spreadsheet models can't be used in presentations, or, data has to be sourced with adequate provenance before a spreadsheet can be shared?

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BI and Technology: Part II

4/4/2008
Thanks to all of you who responded to my last post with thoughtful comments. Rather than respond to each in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, as Kurt Schlegel suggests, let me shift the discussion a little. Instead of arguing that technology alone can't move BI along, I'd rather explore the issue of what can...

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Technology Is Not the Driver of BI Adoption

3/28/2008
I'm having trouble with the supposition that "Emerging Technologies Will Help Drive Mainstream BI Adoption"... There are only two pieces of enterprise analytical software (broadly speaking) that ever gained currency in organizations in the past two decades - Excel and Google. Wouldn't it be a good idea to understand why?

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Fading Hope for Wikis

2/26/2008
If you ever spend time as an administrator or even an editor on Wikipedia, you find that your initial enthusiasm for the concept wanes pretty quickly. I thought Wikipedia was a forum for interested people to present their knowledge in an open and influence-free environment, to be vetted by like-minded, optimistic people. As it turns out, it became a dumping ground for every crackpot, agenda, vendetta and misinformation-broker on the planet...

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Competing on Decisions

2/11/2008
Harvard Business Review recently hosted a two-day conference in Miami called "Think!Analytics," featuring Tom Davenport and Jeanne Harris, co-authors of the current best-seller, "Competing on Analytics."... Tom and company are starting to talk about decisions, not just analytics. Here is why that really caught my attention...

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Performance Management or Measurement Tyranny?

12/4/2007
In "Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations," Dorset House Publishing, 1996, Robert Austin made a very clear case that performance measurement often leads, paradoxically, to distortion and dysfunction instead of improvement. According to Austin... measuring an indicator of a performance raises the risk of making things worse. How can that be?

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One-Stop-Shop BI Equals One Big Yawn!

11/12/2007
All this deal means is that Business Intelligence software as we know it is a mature technology that finally got some attention from well-heeled giants like Oracle, SAP and IBM. Don't expect them to take these platforms and rocket them into the stratosphere. All they are after are the impressive customer lists and what we used to call in the commercial property and casualty business, gross line underwriting. One-stop-shop... New approaches are needed, and are not likely to come from these three.

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More Misinformation from the MIS Crowd

10/12/2007
CIO Insight's October, 2007 report "How Valuable Is Business Intelligence to the Enterprise?" is another example of so-called research that makes no sense. The most curious aspect of this survey was that the respondents were all IT people. For my money, if you want to know how BI is doing, you should ask the people who use it (or don't use it)... The beginning of the article states, "72 percent say their BI efforts have had a major and measurable impact on their companies' bottom lines." This is

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Business Objects' Web 2.0 Features Nice, but Inadequate

8/1/2007
You can't solve BI infoglut with mashups. If you're going to spend time threshing through unstructured data, you should build a useful semantic model to use it. Instead of building features for developers to use to rearrange data in preparation of analysis, why not just make the data smarter so it can rearrange itself? And finally, if you accept the idea that BI 1.0 is inadequate (though still useful), why build 2.0 capabilities on top of an aging 1.0 model?

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The BI Gap in Moore's Law, SOA and DB Performance

7/23/2007
Here is the rub. SOA and the standards that go around it were not invented for BI. It's one thing to ship a url or a 141-digit credit card transaction string or even 50k of XML around the network, but SOAP was not designed to handle shipping a 10 GB result set from one service to another. The whole idea of loosely coupled begs the question, "Where is the data?"

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How to Get Rich in Software

7/18/2007
From time to time, CEO's and founders and even venture capitalists ask me for my opinion about how to do this or that, and I always respond the same way: "I've never earned a dime running a software company, why would you ask me?" And it's true. I have the utmost respect for the entrepreneurs and managers who build something from nothing and have the attention span to attend to the details. I can't do that.

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Get Real About Operational BI

7/16/2007
There is a lot of conflicting information about the term "Operational BI." We need some research to sort out the jargon and propose a clear definition for the term... Operational BI is an oxymoron because BI is the discipline of gathering, transforming and integrating data from diverse systems, cleansing it and storing it for long-term analytical and reporting purposes with tools.

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How Do I Know What Needs Attention?

7/5/2007
We may have access to terabytes of information and tools to help sift through it, but where do you start? There is a great deal of material in the industry about BI facilitating better decision-making, but very little about the actual process. The economist Herbert Simon, who wrote on this extensively, divided decision making into steps, starting with problem solving:

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Data Governance v0.9?

7/2/2007
I spent a couple days at the Data Governance conference in San Francisco last week, not as a speaker, but strictly as a listener. What I really wanted to get out of the three days was a deeper understanding of this concept of governance, what it means and how it works. I admit, I cringe at the word "governance," because it reeks of IT control and restrictions, something we've clearly had enough of for the past few decades...

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How Scary Is the Future?

6/25/2007
We're told that China has more honor students than the US has students, has the largest English-speaking population in the world, that Nintendo spends more money on basic research each year than the US spends on research into education and that a college freshman studying a technical topic will be learning things that are obsolete before he/she graduates...

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Whatever You Call It, Web 2.0 Is Driving Enterprise Software

6/21/2007
Web 2.0 is driving the way companies are doing business. For proof, look no further than the fact that VC money has virtually dried up for enterprise software. The only true innovation going on now is at the edge of the Consumer Web... Web 2.0 is only partly about blogs and collaboration... There's also the Long Tail - the economics of narrow niches.

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People Matter in Advanced Analytics

6/20/2007
I read with interest Tom Davenport's article, "Humans and Black Boxes" in BIReview. He raises the issue about whether humans are required in the analytics process anymore, given the offerings of vendors of unattended data mining tools. After all, with all of the hardware and bandwidth at our disposal, shouldn't systems be smart enough to swim around in the data and come up with predictive models that are more accurate than we mere humans can? Of course, Davenport doesn't believe that, and neithe

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Informing People Does Not Improve Decisions

4/23/2007
I don't typically watch C-Span, but I was watching last week because my wife was giving testimony before a Senate Committee… From Senator Gordon Smith to the esteemed panel with academic and scientific pedigrees in abundance, here was a group of people who were as well-informed on the issues as any group could be. Yet, not a single of one them was swayed from their positions by the others' testimony… So what does this have to do with BI? Everything.

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Who Defines BI? Part II

4/16/2007
These are extended responses to comments made in the original blog "Who Defines BI?" Cliff Longman, CTO at Kalido, commented: "I think of BI as the car and data warehousing as the engine…Data warehouses should represent the historical view (and the "what if?" views as well if it is a business requirement) of data that a business relies on to judge its performance." Cliff, we're pretty much in agreement...

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Who Defines BI?

4/3/2007
I was more than a little surprised when I read the article "Think Critically When Applying Best Practices," by Bob Becker and Ralph Kimball. Unless I misread it, they have come around and defined BI as the total process, including data warehousing (DW). This is something that the other prominent DW guru's did a few years ago when, fearing they would miss the hot BI-market boat, declared their IT-oriented DW environment as BI.

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The Upside of BI Market Consolidation

3/2/2007
Other analysts are preoccupied with the Oracle/Hyperion deal, but I'm not. There are so many important things to keep on top of that the financial doings of the industry are only secondary interests for me... Some worry about consolidation of the market. I don't. There are dozens of companies waiting in the wings to become the next Hyperion... These deals are usually about buying either a client list, a sales force or maintenance revenue stream.

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Models Take the Danger Out of Prediction

2/28/2007
Predictive modeling isn't a crystal ball, and despite the efforts of Business Objects, Hyperion, Microstrategy and SAS to get predictive modeling into mainstream BI tools, there are many other reasons for its lack of success... Predictive modeling is different from using predictive models... Automating decisions with predictive models is a good idea, especially when those decisions are numerous and each one has a farily low risk of error.

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BI Megatrends: Our 7th Annual Special Report

8/15/2006
What are the latest directions in business intelligence? In our seventh annual report, we take a look at the major drivers impacting how you'll architect and implement BI in your organization. Could search, semantics and master data management push BI over the top?

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Start Making Sense: Get From Data To Semantic Integration

9/21/2005
Current integration methods including ETL, EAI and EII can't deliver on the goal of creating a single view of the truth. In fact, composite apps and service-based architectures will only underscore the limitations of current practices. Semantic integration promises a richer understanding of metadata and clearer context, but to embrace this emerging approach, we'll have to revise some cherished data warehousing concepts.

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