The BI Comfort Zone

How decision makers are pushed to the comfort of well-known even if inferior solutions

Every couple of years, the head of BI finds herself in the position of selecting a new software solution – the need for better organization of a growing volume of data, improved visualization, and faster access, along with the desire for actionable insight, drive the organization to look for a new, better BI solution. A variety of solutions in the marketplace are evaluated. Vendors demonstrate their latest and greatest innovations to help Sales people boost their results, Marketing groups better understand the effect of their campaigns, and Analysts arrive at more accurate conclusions. Young innovative vendors often offer not only a superior product but also better prices and improved support than the large, established brand name companies. Yet still, nine out of ten CIOs will end up opting to forgo the advantages of innovation and choose the warm and fuzzy comfort of a known brand name.

The fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) tactic originally associated with IBM in the 70s and later adopted by Microsoft that used it heavily in the 80s. Microsoft ended up out FUD-ding IBM themselves during the OS/2 vs. Win3.1 years. FUD strategy is still successfully used in sales, marketing, and even politics and propaganda. FUD appeals to the deep dark fears of typical managers in large organizations.

The IT group is expected to build and support systems that work. As long as things go well, they walk on water. Only when something fails, fingers are pointed. So, why risk it and lose sleep?‬

Business Intelligence tools generate dashboards, yet not all dashboards are alike. Most tools mainly slice and dice data from sources, come up with a series of tables, and present them in a colorful variety of forms – from graphs and charts to heath maps and scatter plots. More often than not, a new and improved version of the tool means a better-quality user interface with an enriched set of colorful displays. Only the high end solutions go beyond slicing and dicing and perform actual analysis of the data – find correlations between different phenomena, interdependencies between events, and causation that provides deep insight into the drivers behind deviations from expected results. The results are also presented in dashboards, but the value of true analysis is orders of magnitude higher than simple reports: data is automatically analyzed to pinpoint specific nuggets of information that actually matter for strategic decision making and tactic planning. Unlike simple dashboards that only organize the information in a more convenient way, the high-end analysis solution separate the wheat from the chaff, presenting the user with insights one can really act upon.

If in-depth analysis tools bring such added value, why is it that still only a handful of solutions offer this level of insight? Well, it isn’t easy to deliver accurate, quality analysis of huge sets of data. To bring real value, the analysis solution has to start with integrating a wide scope of data sources, to evaluate any possible influence on business results. The analysis process has to amalgamate business logic and incorporate domain expertise of the specific market and particular business process as only with the context of the problem to be solved and the profound perception of the consequences, an automatic tool can bring about true value. Consequently, brand name general-purpose solutions will never provide the level of accuracy and perceptiveness that is built into a market-specific, process-specific, innovative solution. With complex solutions such as business intelligence, the illusion of safety that comes with the gorilla players is specifically deceiving.

IBM and the many large corporations that followed suit, capitalized on this fear from failure and came up with the perfect marketing message that suggests choosing the larger, more established option not because of any intrinsic quality but because it’s the larger, more established option. Decades later, IT managers still hesitate before daring to take the risk of deviating from the standard choice to opt for something new and innovative offered by a small and unknown vendor, for lower prices and in most cases, much better quality.