Monday, August 25

Stitch your information together

The future is getting brighter for industries and non-tech people. There are numerous examples of complex technologies presented in a simple fashion and easy to use -- the iPhone and Google Earth are two examples that my 70 yr old father has picked up.

And thanks to Rick Rogers for showing the latest technology from Microsoft Live Labs (and University of Washington) that stitches 2D photos into a 3D view for people with little technology know-how -- Photosynth and here's a YouTube demo.

It's easy. Take photos of a room, for example. Select the photos you want for Photosynth. Photosynth then stitches each photo together to create a 3D view of the room. Easily move around the room in your new 3D world.

It's so easy I may even ask my 70 yr old father to do some "synthing".

However this isn't a review of the Photosynth tool, it's about innovation and improvement... for BI.

Now imagine what BI would be like if you could simply stitch your information together? Pull your customers. Drag sales volumes. Drop products into an information pot. Then BI does the rest. You then navigate the answers. Repeat with new information when ever you need to.

The question is could BI be made simple enough to support business people making decisions in a timely manner? (because it isn't that easy to use today) What if a CFO for a trucking company saw fuel prices starting to skyrocket (we know this can happen in an unpredictable way). The holy grail for BI would allow the CFO to drag a few information pieces together effectively helping decide within minutes whether to increase prices and by how much?

The point being that it's simple enough for a CxO.

Sure we can, you're saying. Just design those questions into the model and push the results into a cube and presto. Well what happens when the business doesn't know all the questions they could ask in the future? The issue comes down to flexibility.

Then more challenges are raised when businesses need to state their questions up front. The reality is business changes. New products, new objectives, new competition. In fact, this inflexibility is, in my opinion, the Achilles heel for BI and many integration styled technologies.

Realistically however, what can really be done about this. Who will overcome the data quality issue. What about conforming dimensions (i.e. people, places, things) across the enterprise. There are many challenges that are taken care of under the BI covers.

So where does that leave us. Can simplicity, real simplicity, be reached through new innovations or will the historical challenges impede progress. We may need more than new toolsets, it may require an entire paradigm shift in thinking.

Challenge the status quo and ask why things are done this way today. Could there be a better way? Let's pave the way forward to a less challenging, less expensive, yet timely way of providing information to those who want it.

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