In other words, is BAM BI? This question went out to all individuals in the LinkedIn EPM Business Intelligence group, but who should respond to Seth's question but Howard Dresner himself, the ultimate definer of BI. Now that is a little like kneeling to pray for guidance and immediately having God tap you on the shoulder.
It is not like Seth is some newbie BI person asking silly questions. Far from it. He chairs the annual North American and European Text Analytics Summits and is contributing editor for Intelligent Enterprise magazine (CMP).
Here is Howard's response to Seth's question:
"By definition, BI is about enabling end users with access to and analysis of data. Hence, I believe BAM is BI when the user is involved in the decision-making process. BAM can also be used for decision automation, which would not be BI. "
Howard, of course, means by his definition. Howard created the business intelligence world in 6 sentences and rested on the 7th blank line. And Howard saw that it was good.
Some naïve LinkedIn members disagreed with Howard and they were promptly struck down with fire and brimstone. Anybody who questions Howard on his own definition of BI would merely be Job shouting to the heavens, "Hey, I think you made a mistake down here, God!"
Despite the risk of BI swords, pestilence, and famines, let's look closely at Howard's position.
By His intelligent design, in a BI application, thou shalt have humans. If people are there to use the analytic results, then an application passes the Dresner BI Criterion. On the other hand, if the software provides intelligence to another non-human application, then it is no longer BI. It is merely "decision automation."
So if I examine stock trends online and decide to buy some shares of Starbucks, I am using a BI application. But if I set up an automated agent to watch the stock market and it invests in Starbucks for me, then it is not BI. Interesting.
But wait, I am a human shareholder now despite the manner of having bought the stock, so doesn't that count for me being involved somewhere in the process? After all, I put my decision-making process into the rules of the application, so I am there in proxy.
Granted, I didn't shout, "Eureka!" and move my mouse to click on the buy button, but the application knew that I would because I had already advised it to perform as if it were me. Shouldn't that count as BI? Or do BI qualities somehow decline the farther downstream the user is from the software application itself?
Perhaps this is like not hearing the tree that falls in the forest if you are not there. If an intelligent activity happened and no user was sitting at the screen to see it, then did the BI not really happen?
Continuing our inquiry into this religious doctrine of BI, let's consider an analogy. Delta Flight 1700 flies from Atlanta to Cincinnati with passengers, so it is obviously a passenger plane. While in Cincinnati, the Delta people remove the seats and fly the same plane back to Atlanta with pallets of boxes filled with canned beans. We would agree that this is now a cargo plane. But it is still an airplane, right? It is definitely still part of our transportation system.
Or would not having any human passengers inside immediately turn an airplane into something else? This is deep stuff, Howard.
Perhaps I should post my own question on a LinkedIn forum: "What sort of penance do you think is adequate in Howard's eyes for my BI blasphemy?"