IT folks who throw out terms like ETL and OLAP, blather about "single versions of the truth" and get bogged down in discussions over how many terabytes of data their business intelligence tools can handle are missing out on a rare opportunity to wow business users. As freelance writer Ted Cuzzillo says in a recent dispatch from the TDWI World Conference that was published on Enterprise Systems:
Business intelligence seems especially ripe for good storytelling. Isn't BI about letting the data tell its story?
Storytelling is one of six principles espoused in the book, "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, writes Cuzzillo. Long story short: A compelling tale is one of the best ways to make an idea "stick" in someone's mind. There is no better way to promote BI than to lay out a story about how it can help a company achieve its business objectives.
For instance, I blogged about how an Illinois farm improved its yields and increased its margins by using BI tools to analyze data gathered using GPS-equipped tractors. The tools let farmers include relevant information such as seed prices, fertilizer costs, weather histories and market pricing in their analyses.
Have you heard the one about the Richmond, Va., police official who used BI tools to analyze crime reports with other data such as sporting event schedules and weather patterns to determine when and where crimes might occur? The result: The city's crime rate fell by 20 percent in 2006.
Such success stories are a good first step in getting users to warm to a technology that has gotten a lot of knocks (many of them well-deserved) for its use of arcane interfaces and rigid reporting requirements.