Why I still label myself as a Business Intelligence Architect

| 8 March 2017 | Others

I still label myself as a Business Intelligence architect and I’m proud of that. Over the last 20 years, BI practitioners have gathered a body of knowledge of effective methods to enable people to create value in their businesses or services, by using information. That’s what BI is about.
The origin of that information, whether it is in an ERP system or web server log, doesn’t matter for the usage value of it.

With new technological capabilities, new titles have arrived: data engineers, big data architects, data scientists. Use of labelling to distinguish your capabilities from the next person to sell yourself in the market place. And that’s fine.

Somewhere in the last years, the term ‘Business Intelligence’ has been associated with old, with obsolete. It has an old-fashioned, unsexy ring to it.

What gets me fired up is ignorance of the body of knowledge BI professionals have gathered through hard work and miserable failures. You watch the new technology people come in, often unaware of the pitfalls their BI predecessors have fallen in to. Two observations that stand out for me:

  • In every conversation, it is always about ‘the data’ and never about the use case. If BI taught us anything, it is people don’t work with data. People have a use case and need the information for supporting that use case.
  • The new technology people are technology centric. They believe, not always conscious of it, that users will flock to the data like game to a waterhole in the Serengeti. It makes me uncomfortable: we BI people thought the same for a long, long time and we were proven wrong.

Is there no value in those new technologies? Of course there is!
Deriving value out of data is more of a challenge than before. Preparation for consumption, with different types of data added to the mix, is not easy.
Value is created out of information through collaboration and discussion among people. Users don’t care about or understand the complexities of the process of preparation. They care about being able to use the information. Technology people should play an active role in the collaboration, not the passive one I observe most of the time.

The tired analogy is that we have moved from small wells of data to a data lake where everyone can come in and sample. That analogy is flawed. We have moved to a brackish marsh land. There are far more minerals and exotic plants to be found, but creating consumable products from a brackish marsh requires a lot of skill.

We need new architectures to work with. I often point to the excellent work of Barry Devlin, to his IDEAL and REAL architectures. Context is everything to prepare consumable information.

The tools available to marry the context to the data are expanding and changing at a rapid pace right now. We data-savvy people need to take the users of information along on the trip of what technology can do to disclose new information. Users of information must share their new applications of information with us, so we can support them better. Just like we have learned to do in BI.

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