A business intelligence parable

Once upon a time there were two technology companies, both operating in the Corporate On-Line Analysis market. One was called Credible Organisational KPI Enterprise (IT people love acronyms so much that they sometimes even nest them) and the other was known as Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference. However, both companies were generally better known by their respective acronyms; as was the market in which they competed.

Credible Organisational KPI Enterprise and Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference had parts of their respective product sets that overlapped with each other, but also had some more distinctive offerings. In the places where their portfolios diverged, each was seen as a market leader. In the shared areas, things were less clear-cut; some users preferring Credible Organisational KPI Enterprise and others Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference. Often those who expressed a preference did so in very strong terms, but not always with much evidence to back this up.

Well none of this mattered too much to most regular people until one day the head of marketing of Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference made a speech in which he claimed – contrary to all previous industry thinking – that the usefulness of general Corporate On-Line Analysis had been overstated and that only Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference could really offer users any benefits.

The deep insight underpinning the claims of Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference’s Chief Marketing Officer was that while Credible Organisational KPI Enterprise’s products relied on mostly water and sugar to make their customers happy, the revolutionary tools provided by his company had a secret, special ingredient, code-named only hydrated-C12H22O11.

These claims caused rather a furore in the Corporate On-Line Analysis world, with many commentators strongly disputing them. Several of the colleagues of the Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference CMO rushed to his defence. Some indeed went on to claim that Corporate On-Line Analysis was merely a subset of Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference, this despite most people having previously thought of both Credible Organisational KPI Enterprise and Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference as being different types of Corporate On-Line Analysis vendors.

While this move by Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference was probably intended to highlight the strengths of their product set and to better differentiate themselves from Credible Organisational KPI Enterprise, instead it just confused most people working in the area of Corporate On-Line Analysis and made them wonder whether the people at Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference understood their own products and market.

In the end, the people at Predictive Enlightenment Powered by Statistical Inference came to their senses, realising that what had initially seemed like a great marketing idea was actually counterproductive and even making them look slightly ridiculous. They issued a statement saying that their CMO’s comments had been taken out of context but nevertheless unequivocally retracting them.

After this outbreak of sensible behaviour, things in the Corporate On-Line Analysis world started to settle down again and everyone lived happily ever after.

BI versus SAS?
 


 
Before the legal teams of any beverage companies start issuing writs, I should point out that any similarity between the above fable and their products is wholly coincidental. Any similarity to the recent behaviour of other commercial organisations may be somewhat less of a coincidence.
 

11 thoughts on “A business intelligence parable

  1. Peter,

    ROTFL – Bloody brilliant!

    Although not sure if you’re going to get the happy ending you wrote about – we live in the real (i.e, competitive) world; maybe the picture should have each can twisting the knife in each others’ backs.

    “BI vs BA?” Undecided whether one is a subset of the other, or the other way around, or different areas with some overlap, or are we trying to be too purist about the whole thing. (e.g, “Star Wars” vs “Star Trek” when we all know it’s really “Babylon 5”. And no, I’m not just another geek!)

    Besides, any opinion you or I (or others) have will be met be equally vocal alternate opinions.

    (Another $64k question..)

    Do we let the business decide? (Should we help them decide? Here we go again..)

    Enjoying your posts. Where do find the time to get any work done?!?

    Cheers.

  2. Hey Peter,
    Your post was really informative. I just graduated with an MS in Operations Research with thesis in Statistical process control.
    Super skills in Statistics, Simulation, Optimization, programming…. But difficult to get an Operations Research job without PhD.
    So, planning to switch to IT. Again the same question: Analytics or Intelligence.
    Long term plan is to get into Corporate planning dept, ideally an Airlines Company.

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