Sure, end users and executives love all the intelligent reporting, business analytics and other high-end data management solutions. But do they really need or even use all these whiz-bang solutions, asks Dale Vile, a research director with the IT analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, in a recent column.
In some cases, argues Vile, IT would better serve the business by focusing on an old-fashioned concept called "business support":
The chances are that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had by identifying specific information needs in specific places - e.g. the points in business processes where information is required to evaluate a situation and select the appropriate way forward. In the old days, we used to call this "decision support," and while this phrase brings with it a lot of baggage from the '80s and '90s, it does actually describe the fundamental business requirement in a much more objective way than most of the above buzz phrases and jargon.
Refocusing on business support could allow IT to step away from all the trendy solutions and buzzwords and focus instead on the fundamentals. For instance, the business might not need a big BI project. Instead, maybe "a small piece of integration work to allow information to be pulled from one application into another at run time could make all the difference from a performance perspective," he writes.
If he sounds a bit too much like your grandpa, keep reading. He's not rejecting everything new. For example, he points out that focusing on decision support will mean service-oriented architecture and business process management are important disciplines for this approach, whether they're done formally or informally. He also adds that a decision-support philosophy will require you to pay more attention to desktop, Web and mobile access technologies.
All of which you might have time to address, if you weren't so busy chasing "boil the ocean" and overly complex solutions, according to Vile. He writes:
The trick is to think in terms of a decision support architecture or framework that encompasses all the necessary dimensions and layers, and to pick off problems in a manageable way within this.
Despite the occasionally "you kids get off my lawn" curmudgeonly tone, I think Vile's raising a useful philosophical question about the way IT approaches data integration and management. I've probably oversimplified his case - for instance, he does acknowledge the challenges of proliferating data - so you should read the full column. But I'd love to hear your thoughts, below or on Twitter. Is he right? Is some of this stuff a basic integration problem that vendors and IT are making too complex? Or is he oversimplifying the issue?