Author: Mike Biere
Publisher:IBM Press, 2010
Aimed at: Business decsion makers, IT professionals
Pros: Platform- and vendor-independent
Cons: Raises issues without resolving them
Reviewed by: Andrew Johnson
The subtitle of this book, Using Analytics to Achieve a Global Competitive Advantage" is rather misleading. The words "Using" and "Achieve" might make you expect to find some practical advice between the covers and coupled with "Advantage" you might be expecting some kind of panacea.
No, Mike Biere does not have any magic solutions and by adopting a vendor- and platform-independent approach he doesn't even steer you towards any of the options he outlines in his survey of the current range of BI solutions in Chapter 4, The Scope of BI Solutions Today and How They May Relate to You. Here he includes BI "Mega-Vendors" such as IBM and Oracle, independent BI vendor including SAS, Information Builders and MicroStrategy; Open Source BI tools; Software as a Service (SaaS); Cloud computing; BI appliances such as those from IBM and SAP and Dynamic warehousing. Later on he adds SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and portals, mashups and collaboration to the mix. However, even in Chapter 14 on implementation and Chapter 17, An End User Survival Guide, he does not commit himself to a specific solution or even a preferred approach.
What Beire is good at is at raising questions - which the reader then has to answer for themselves. He starts this possibly unsettling process right at the beginning of the book with the suggestion that while many senior executives perceive business intelligence as "mission critical" and challenging the reader to devise their own mission statement and in the next chapter he suggests you make a critical examination of the current state of BI within your organization.
In Chapter 1, Introduction to Business Intelligence Today, a graph is used to show the gap between BI deployment and usage, referred to as the uptake gap in that a tool that could be, and is intended to be widely used within an organization instead is only put to use by technically savvy users rather than by managers and "front-line" personnel who could benefit most from the analytics. In Chapter 3, The History of Business Intelligence within Your Organization, the cost of this underutilization of a BI tool is quantified with an anecdotal example. This lesson is reiterated in Chapter 10, Justifying Business Intelligence with a hypothetical scenario in which deploying a BI tool for 1,500 users rather than 100 known users would result in "roughly $2,073,600" being spent "for software that is warming the bench". This chapter has a list of criteria for measuring BI success which is followed up with a list of questions you should ask to evaluate in terms of stated goals and objectives. Again the ball is in the reader's court but just being made to ask questions could save you a hefty amount of budget. Similarly the penultimate chapter presents a set of checklists for BI planning - and they are "provided ... to encourage you to discuss them in depth ... and come up with an honest open assessment of where your organization and your area of BI coverage happen to be.
I was surprised by the number of Wikipedia definitions relied on in this book, as well as long passages quoted from journal articles and blogs - until I thought about it. If an adequate definition or explanation already exists why not re-use it? On the whole this book does a good job of demystifying the jargon surrounding the entire enterprise process. However, to understand the whole picture you probably also need to read the author's previous book as he makes frequent references to ideas more fully explained within its pages.