Friday, May 1, 2009

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 9: Can a cat be simultaneously dead and alive ?

Schrödinger has already grappled with that paradox leaving us with the famous Schrödinger's cat

In the world of BI the famous paradox manifests itself in terms of what I will call the "Consulting Conundrum" : Can a consultant be simultaneously objective towards an agreed upon BI roadmap/strategy and ever changing needs of his/her clients ?

Before I attempt to answer that , let me digress. In my experience there are a few different kind of BI consulting outfits spanning the spectrum of the following 2 opposite poles :

1. "We will help you frame your BI strategy and roadmap" type.
2. "Where's the software box, we will install it for you" type

The first one views the second as "below their paygrade, hands dirty" kind of guys while the second ones view the first as "head in the clouds, cut off from reality" kind of guys.

Very few and far between are the kind of consultants who straddle the two extremes . These are the kind of guys who understand that the client often has nebulous ideas about BI , they know what they need and sometimes not even that; and are not sure how they can get there. Reminds me of Alice in Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland :

"Cheshire-Cat," said Alice, "please could you tell me which way I should go?"

"That depends on where you want to go," the Cheshire-Cat answered.

"I don't really care," said Alice.

Well it doesn't matter then, does it?" the Cheshire-Cat said.

"As long as I get somewhere," said Alice quickly.

The solution to the "Consulting Conundrum" lies with the "integration roles" ("functional") within the client organization that span the "technology - user" divide. Unfortunately these roles are often the hardest hit as IT organizations within companies downsize. This can pose new challenges for consultants in fathoming what a client actually needs but also an opportunity to provide services to bridge a gap which companies have created through their short sightedness.

What are your solutions to the "Consulting Conundrum" ?


Julien Delvat said...

This is all very true.

Having experience as a consultant within an ERP vendor, I sometimes had the feeling of being a hammer seeing every problem as a nail. Our solution was not in 100% of the cases the best for our customers.

Now that I am independant and in the BI universe, I face the contrary: we try to be "tool agnostic" in order to be the best advisor for our customers: yes, Qlikview is very nice, but it's useless when you need to enter data for e-g planning. Issue is that we can't know all BI solutions out there (have the impression there's a new one every week) and that we don't know the tools as well as the ones who built it.

Coming back to your Alice example: if you wanted to go on vacation without a real idea of where to go, what would you do? You'd probably google for any travel agency to find your destination and examples of prices, but maybe you'd then directly go to the airline / hotel to make your reservation at a lower price ...

My answer would be: combine the 2! Select the consultant you feel more confident with in order to pick the tool that would suit you best and then, contact the vendor for the implementation and team them up for successfull delivery.

After all, BI is often more about the process than about the tool.

Deepak Seth said...

Excellent points, Julien.

Keep reading the Chronicles and commenting !!

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