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Gartner BI Summit 2008: The Next Generation of Innovation

Decision making as core competency, emerging technologies as BI enablers and changes in the BI market itself are core topics at this week's Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Chicago. Analyst Kurt Schlegel explains the trends and business drivers.

Is this about BICCs, or when you say "driven by the business" are you talking about getting into operational BI?

It's very much BICC-driven and making it seem less like an IT-driven reporting function and more like a true business function. There are steps along the way, but if you've ever read the book From Good to Great, getting the right people on the bus with a shared vision is critical to success. It's not just about reporting measures, it's about making our company excellent at making decisions.

The steps along the way include just basic blocking and tackling. For example, if you don't have good data lineage and good data quality, you're not going to trust that information when you're making decisions. That's basic, but the technology and architecture track at the conference will go into that. Going from dashboards to scorecards is another step — getting into root-cause analysis to really understand the important KPIs and what they mean. Linking planning, analysis and reporting is another important step. Today we have finance doing planning, IT doing reporting and analysts out in the business units. If we saw those as one, holistic endeavor, that would go a long way.

At some point we start getting into uncharted territory. I'd like to see an extension of the object classes. Right now we're pretty good a dimensions and measures, but why not model the decision itself as an object class? We can then say, "when this decision was made, this is what we thought." Sometimes you have good decisions that have bad outcomes and sometimes you have bad decisions that have good outcomes. Running it through a decision review or an audit process would be something that a BI team could do.

Aren't rules and predictive models encapsulations of decisions?

[Gartner analyst] Gareth Herschel is going to give a presentation on intelligent decision management, which will get into automating decisions. If you've ever read James Taylor and Neil Raden's book Smart Enough Systems they've pioneered the idea of combining business rules with predictive models and automating decisions. It's actually broader than that; it's about changing the culture of a company to move away from gut feel, tribal knowledge and tradition for making decisions and moving toward experimental design and analysis. This is why Ian Ayres, who wrote the book Super Crunchers is one of our keynote presenters. Tom Davenport's book Competing on Analytics is another good one; these are people who are saying that those who are making decisions based on empirical analysis, as opposed to tradition or gut feel, are going to experience greater success with BI than those who just report.

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