Summary: Harvard Business Review On Decision-Making

BI practitioners may find a recent edition of the Harvard Business Review indispensable.
Almost as an antidote for the business blinders, Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert Sutton argue the case for what they call "evidence-based management." Pfeffer is no stranger to the culture of organizational politics, having written for 30 years on the topic. Here's what HBR editors say about the task that Pfeffer and Sutton have taken on: "The challenge is quite simply to ground decisions in the latest and best knowledge of what actually works. In some ways that is more difficult to do than in [other professions like] medicine. The evidence is weaker in business; almost anyone can (and many people do) claim to be a management expert; and a motley crew of sources ... are used to generate management advice. Still ... when managers act on better logic and strong evidence, their companies will beat the competition." BI practitioners, in this reviewer's opinion, will have greater support for their business activity monitoring (BAM), business process management (BPM), scorecarding and dashboard initiatives, thanks to this article.

Finally, Paul Rogers and Marco Blenko's Who Has the D? How Clear Decision Roles Enhance Organizational Performance looks at the mechanics and practice of decision making in organizations. The authors argue that a clear -- but flexible -- delineation of roles between decision-makers and information contributors is vital for producing better decisions. This article provides a standard against which BI practitioners can compare themselves when it comes to how the roles and responsibilities for decisions are set in their organizations. The article argues that tough trade-offs and balancing have to be made within organizations' decision-making framework -- and it sets criteria for designing the process of decision-making.

The one serious shortcoming in these articles is their lack of external references or a summary article with a list of resources to be found on decision-making. Readers can counter this egregious bit of Harvard hubris with well-chosen Google searches on the authors and topics from the articles. That said, these stories and their readers will help shape the direction that BI takes over the next 5-10 years. Why not find out if you agree with them sooner, rather than later?

Editor's Note: Business Intelligence Pipeline has no business affiliation with Harvard Business Review.

Jacques Surveyer is an IT observer and speculates on these and broader ideas at his site