The 7 Deadly Sins Of Business Intelligence

BI is a pseudonym.

Many of the implementations that I see, don’t seem to offer much to the organizations and show only a passing acquaintance with anything that could be referred to as intelligence. Why does this happen? Companies, like people are flawed deeply. They engage in behaviors that appear to offer solutions short term but over a longer period, don’t actually deliver much.

What’s the reason for this? Well a lot of companies blame their suppliers; in the same way an individual blames fast food places for making them fat. There are far too many easy options offering us tempting high calorie, high fat food for us to every be thin. If only they didn’t exist then I’d be at the gym every day instead of stuffing burgers and pizza. Suppliers are as ready in the corporate IT world to give us what we want and address a companies weaknesses as companies are in our private lives to our own personal weaknesses.

Man is flawed, companies are flawed. Writers from the middles ages looked at the human race and saw what weak creatures they were, the came up with the seven deadly sins. They were:


  • acedia (acedia/discouragement/sloth)
  • invidia (envy)
  • superbia (pride)
  • luxuria (lechery/lust)
  • gula (gluttony)
  • avaritia (avarice/greed)
  • acedia (acedia/discouragement/sloth)
  • ira (wrath)

And a modern man can look at any business and see the seven deadly sins of business intelligence.

These are:

  • Lacking direction
  • Incompatible culture
  • Being fixated on technology
  • Underestimation
  • Non thinking
  • Not being prepared
  • Not being suitable to do the job

Out of all of these sins, being fixated on the technological part of the equation is probably the worst. Business intelligence consultants will get lots of requests to submit a tender and visit lots of potential clients who have invested huge amounts of effort and time in deciding what the technology needs to be able to do. There is often a direct correlation between the small amounts of thinking that is actually gone into what they actually do with the products when they get them. To clarify, these projects rarely fail due to the technology involved but due to the perceptions of what it will do.

There’s a huge amount of wishful thinking that goes on. Compare it to the home gym equipment that is for sale on every infomercial. We know we’re fat and we know we’re unhealthy, but if we just bought the Ab Buster 5000, we would look just like the fit and toned models that sell them. The only flaw in this logic is the fact that we’re lazy slobs who will never use the thing or take the time to exercise and it will spend time gathering dust in the loft or making a rather handsome clothes rack.

Business intelligence is the same. BI tools work amazingly in lean and fit companies such as startups. The ones that show a sense of purpose and forward thinking and have a culture to analyse and get things done (the JFDI attitude). They are ready to invest, not just financially but perhaps more importantly with the time and effort involved in making the system work.

Business Intelligence should be about a fundamental change in the company. There is a technological part involved in this, but don’t think it’s as easy as simply buying the system or spending the cash. Take a close look at your company and consider the time involved in changing it into an organization that can use BI properly to compete.

Jim Seward writes about business intelligence software and other business critical software systems.

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