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Dresner’s Point: What’s Innovation Worth in BI?

By December 11, 2012Article

One of the memorable scenes in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” is when Dorothy and her three fellow travelers of the Yellow Brick Road finally reach the castle and are promised a meeting with the Wizard known as The Great and Powerful Oz. Certain that he will give them some innovation to address their challenges, they’re at first impressed with the flashy “bells and whistles.” Then they’re stunned when they see the reality: a very non-wizard-looking kind of guy operating the bells and whistles behind a curtain. And they hear a booming voice warning them to “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

I think it’s time to pay attention to what’s going on behind the curtain regarding innovation in business intelligence solutions. That’s what we discussed at one of my Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats recently.

A participant tweeted the context for the discussion: “In terms of innovation, how well aligned would you say vendors are towards the real needs of the business?” The tweetchat tribe recognized right away that the answer depends on how one defines innovation.

They started with what innovation is NOT:

  • “It’s not building a better mousetrap.”
  • “It’s not the same thing as novel. (After all, mobile BI is not new, but there is a lot of innovation taking place in that space.)”
  • “It’s not innovation when every vendor comes up with the same features.”

And shifted to what it could be / should be:

  • “It’s solving the currently unsolved.”
  • “It could be converting good new ideas into profitable products.”
  • “It could be taking something current to the next level in a different way.”
  • “It could be that implementation is the innovation.”
  • “Innovation should be how to best address business needs and create competitive opportunities.”

Someone tweeted an opinion that “Business and consultants seem to want to focus on leveraging existing knowledge, but vendors are focused elsewhere.”

Another tweet pointed out an inherent challenge: “Building a new mousetrap is exciting for vendors and will attract development cash. And current business problems are regarded as boring.”

Dr. C. K. Prahalad, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, who wrote much about innovation, pointed out that innovation and value creation must be made more inclusive. He wrote in a 2006 article (“Innovation Through Co-Creation”) that innovation has long been the cornerstone of the software industry yet few customers call enterprise vendors “innovative.” He added that enterprise software vendors need to change the way they think about innovation in order to support customers better.

Bottom line: Innovation in BI products needs more time on the drawing board. To ensure we don’t short-circuit innovation, it needs to be a combined effort of the main players — business users with business problems and software vendors. As I wrote in a previous article (“Dresner Study Reveals Changes in the Business Intelligence Market”), “If I could give only one piece of advice to BI vendors, it would be: Make sure you provide products that have the ultimate user in mind.”

Bringing disparate groups together can lead to creative ideas that sustain commercial growth and actually solve problems. Let’s not forget that one thing that never goes out of style in enterprise software is products and features that solve problems.

Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.

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