I recently had the honor of attending a 2-day training session presented by Peter Myers of SolidQ. Peter is a top-notch presenter and I was impressed by how well he knew his stuff. He easily moved among definitions and terms that are quite foreign to me, such as dimensions, attributes, facts, measures, etc. More impressive was how he would build something in a demo, have it not be correct, and know within a few seconds what the problem could be. Me? I would have stared at the screen wondering if it was correct, and would have no idea how to fix things if it was not.

At some point during the sessions it became clear to me that all of this so called “Intelligence” is really just a fancy way of saying we have the best tools in the industry to dump a crapload of data onto your lap. And yes, crapload is the technical term for this. And if you feel like you have too much data, that’s fine,we can make it easy for you by giving you some KPI’s that flash pretty signal lights so you only have to focus on whatever it is you think you have to focus on.

And there is the rub, in my opinion. How do you know that the right data is going to the right person?

For systems that claim to be so intelligent, how are we certain that the right people are being given the right information to make the right decisions each day? Seems to me that this is quite similar to looking for a Holy Grail, if you will, trying to spend a good chunk of your existence on this Earth in pursuit of something that may never exist.

Peter showed me a video that was put together by Nic Smith from Microsoft. Set aside ten minutes and watch the video and then write down what you think about BI when it is done. I loved the video so much that I went and followed Nic on Twitter. He followed me back so I can only hope he loves bacon as much as I do and we can meet at PASS this year. Anyway, it was right before Peter showed me the video that I was having a lot of the thoughts that came out in the video, so the timing was perfect. Perhaps that is why it struck such a chord with me.

I am reminded of an old story about a man with a hunting dog. This man and his friend go hunting one day with his dog. He shoots at a duck, it falls into the water, and the dog walks out on the water to get the duck and walks back. After a few more ducks are collected, the man turns to his friend and asks “Do you see anything unusual about my dog?”

His friend replies “Now that you mention it, I do. Your dog can’t swim!”

Having a crapload of info delivered to your desktop is not what matters. It is what you do with the info that matters the most. Having ten different tools to collect it ten different ways does not matter. Coloring it red does not matter. You must know how to apply the information that is being given to you. And if these systems were as intelligent as they claim, they would not only know how to give you the data, but they would also know what people need which pieces of information.

The friend in the above story had all the information he needed to make a decision. And while you can argue his decision was sound, after all we never did see the dog swim, would you also say it was the complete truth? Different people will see things in different ways. The day someone builds a system that gets the right data, to the right people, at the right time, then we will truly be able to talk about an intelligent system. Until then, BI is really just about how to quickly perform calculations on data in order to help support business decisions that may or may not prove correct.

But I do need to get me some scorecards. I love shiny things and blinking lights as much as the next person.