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Bringing up baby BI

by Davin Wilfrid

January 4, 2011

by Davin Wilfrid, insiderRESEARCH

Like most new parents, I get frustrated at my utter cluelessness as to what my infant son wants. He cries. We try to feed him. No good. We change his diaper. Nothing. We swaddle him. Fireworks. We put him in the swingy chair. Temporary relief followed by more crying. We put him on the jungle gym play mat. LIGHTNING BOLTS FROM HIS EYES.

Eventually, through trial and error, we realize that he wanted to be held, upright and facing out, for a few walking laps around the living room. Maybe it's the Christmas tree lights. Who cares. He's finally happy.

In business terms, the baby is our customer and we are the vendor. And by now we've gotten pretty good at guessing what he wants based on the limited information we receive. However, this is only the starting point. The next step is to predict when the baby will cry next and have the solution ready beforehand. The move from reactive to predictive parenting will save us a lot of headaches and sleepless nights down the road.

Sound familiar?

It should. Our recent survey of more than 320 SAP customers found that while most customers (66%) had BI initiatives at their companies for more than 5 years, many are over-relying on straightforward reporting and have yet to move toward real, value-added BI initiatives that offer real insight into their environments and the ability to gain a competitive edge.

Penny Silvia of IBM tells me one of the biggest mistakes customers make when upgrading to SAP BusinessObjects solutions is to simply reproduce their old reporting and basic dashboards, rather than exploiting the raw power of the new tools to get ahead. In her words, advanced BI tools are like a Lamborghini -- it can get you there much faster but it's completely worthless if you don't know how to drive it.

Here's where baby BI and real-world BI diverge: As a parent I can afford a little trial and error. But in the business world, you're either driving the Lamborghini or you're sucking up exhaust.

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