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The unknown unknowns are where BI professions add real value.

by Tony Harper

February 16, 2011

Something light and fluffy to kick off with. I love this quote:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. ” —Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
I think This applies in BI as well, let's see what you think.

The known knowns: You might meet these when a user asks for 'I want exactly what I have today from the new BI solution'. These are typically operational requirements that add little value, but do allow someone to "do their job".

The known unknows: I love these, these are typically senior managers that know something is wrong, but don't have the numbers to prove it. These self service ad-hoc requirements are where BI can offer massive value over manual manipulation of data. Get these right and you will have a powerful advocate for BI.

The unknown unknowns: These worry me a bit, but they are very important, these are the areas where the organisation needs real help and guidance. They could be the insights that save the organisation millions! But more often as a BI professional I'm asked 'what should I measure?' This is our chance to shine, external experience, SAP's benchmarking, SAP's value academy, the industry and functional solutions can all help take a directionless tactical organisation and give them a structure and purpose.

Finally, logically Donald missed a category, the unknown knowns, these for me are all those queries that were requested, developed and tested only to lie untouched, unrun and unloved by the user community.

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