Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Human Decisions

In an earlier blog, I discussed how Howard Dresner says that his term "Business Intelligence" really only applies to those software applications that help humans make decisions.

Timo Elliott (Employee #8 at Business Objects) blogged on a similar topic back in 2007 with his "Will Computers Ever Help With Decisions?" article (I hate to give away the ending, but Timo answered his own question with "No"). It's an interesting blog about why people are still unhappy with their computer appplications, so be sure to read it.

Timo gives us a definition of "decision" itself:

"A decision is a situation where information is lacking by definition. Many executives define their jobs as "making decisions" -- i.e. tasks that can't be automated. As computers take on the lower-level tasks, they're free to move on to more complicated choices."

Like Howard, Timo points out a significant dividing line between applications that automate tasks and those that present information to humans for a final decision. It the computer has all of the information necessary to reach a conclusion, then the result cannot be considered a real "decision." Instead, it is an automated task.

Timo concludes his blog with:

"But to decide (and err) is human. Recognizing this and setting expectations appropriately can help smooth the relationship between the people that consume information and the groups that provide it."


Notice our natural biases both for and against the human race. We think that only humans can make decisions; computers are beneath us in that capacity. However, we're quick to admit that humans make mistakes, unlike computers which are inerrant (except for when software applications make the mistakes we accidentally tell them to make -- too bad computers cannot decide to not follow our instructions!).

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About Me

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I am a project-based consultant, helping data-intensive firms use agile methods and automation tools to replace legacy reporting and bring in modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics. For several world-class vendors, I led services teams specializing in providing software implementation and custom application development. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven methodologies and automated software tools.

During twenty years of technical consulting, I have been blessed to work with smart people from some of the world's most respected organizations, including: FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, graduating summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders, the vendor of WebFOCUS BI and iWay enterprise integration products, and for over a dozen years served in branch leadership roles. For several years, I also led technical teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting.