The Yin Yang of BI

If my customers were to describe me using a single word it would be: “passionate“. And there is nothing that brings out the fire more so than hearing comments like: “It doesn’t matter what BI tool we choose, just get the data right.” or “The data warehouse is taking too long to build, just give them access to what you have.” The former is more common amongst IT and consultants, and the latter, a common view of business groups.

It was 10 years ago when I was first introduced the importance of balancing quality information with useful visualisation, which is why I’m amazed companies today still work with unbalanced solutions. It’s what I call the “Yin yang of BI”. Contrary to popular belief, Yin yang are not opposing forces like good and evil, but complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system.

Let’s talk about the Yin.

A strong foundation for information management is key to any Business Intelligence solution – the ability to collect and store information that is accurate, complete, consistent, and available when needed. In an ideal world, it would include a single, consolidated data model containing the complete set of organisational data. The reality is that it often comprises a set of data warehouses or data marts, each with a set of accurate, up-to-date views of a business group or subject domain.

The Yang.

Equally important to a successful BI solution is the ability to get information into the hands of decision makers at the time it is needed, in a form that is easy to understand and interpret. For example, providing a dancing dashboard to technical analysts is counter-productive because it doesn’t provide them with the view of information they need. Similarly, providing a detailed table of text to Senior Executives may not be an effective way to communicate organisational performance.

So what happens when the Yin yang is unbalanced?

With minimal investment in Yin, the business will make ill-informed decisions and start to distrust corporate information. This often presents itself in the form of Excel Spreadsheets and manual manipulation of data.

With minimal investment in Yang, a company will end up with a great source of information that no one can access or make sense of, and delivers no business value. This is when I start hearing the phrase “The data warehouse is where data goes to die!”

Companies that balance the Yin yang are better able to drive business value from their investment in information, that is, by getting the right information, into the right hands, at the right time.

They are also more at peace with the universe and sleep better at night 😉