Business Intelligence: Some Worst Practices

April 16, 2019

AI has the business intelligence field booming, but not every company uses these tools as well as they could. ITWeb shares a white paper titled, “The Top Five Worst Practices in Business Intelligence,” produced by Information Builders. We wonder—why only five? Oh well, perhaps there will be a sequel. The paper’s introduction states:

“Companies of all sizes suffer from countless oversights and poor judgment calls during planning, tool selection, and rollout – mistakes that can be detrimental to BI success. Even the smartest, best-run businesses in the world commit the common missteps that doom BI projects to shelfware and failure.

The worst practices have been shaped by subjective methods. Accurate? Judge for yourself.

The first worst practice listed is Depending on Humans to Operationalize Insights; be sure analytics are embedded alongside insights, we’re warned. Next is Expecting Self-Service BI to Address All Your Needs. Though some users can make use of self-service BI, advanced users need more flexibility, while executives require summaries and alerts. Then we have Underestimating the Importance of Data Preparation, which we agree cannot be over emphasized. (The old adage garbage-in-garbage-out comes to mind.) At number four is Using Tactical BI Tools to Support Broad BI Strategies—a hodgepodge of specific tools will fail to address the needs of the larger organization; both discovery tools and summary apps are required. Finally, Ignoring Important Data Sources rounds out the list; specifically, we’re told:

“BI initiatives tend to focus on the information contained in ERP and CRM applications, relational databases, data warehouses and marts, and other enterprise systems. However, important other data sources, such as machine-generated, mobile, location, social media, and web monitoring data, which contain a wealth of crucial insight, have emerged. Today, IDC estimates that as much as 90 percent of available content is unstructured, residing in various formats and places.”

See the white paper, downloadable for free here, for more details on each point. It is worth noting the paper concludes by promoting Information Builders’ own platform, WebFOCUS, to guard against such mistakes. Still, the list could be helpful if taken with that salt grain.

Is business intelligence an oxymoron?

Cynthia Murrell, April 16, 2019

Deep Fakes: Technology Is Usually Neutral

December 18, 2018

Ferreting out fake news has become an obsession for search and AI jockeys around the globe. However, those jobs are nothing compared to the wave of fake photos and videos that grow increasingly convincing as technology helps to iron out the wrinkles. That’s a scary prospect to more than a few experts, as we discovered in a recent MIT Technology Review article, “Deepfake Busting Apps Can Spot Even A Single Pixel Out of Place.”

According to the story:

“That same technology is creating a growing class of footage and photos, called “deepfakes,” that have the potential to undermine truth, confuse viewers, and sow discord at a much larger scale than we’ve already seen with text-based fake news.”

Deepfakes are fun and possibly threatening to some. The “experts” at high tech firms will use their management expertise to reduce any anxieties the deepfakes spark. But some Luddites think these videos and images have the potential to disrupt governments and elections in countries where online is pervasive. Beyond Search is comforted by the knowledge that bright, objective, ethical minds are on the case. One question: What if these whiz kids are angling for a more selfish outcome?

Patrick Roland, December 18, 2018

Business Intelligence: A Priority for 2019

December 12, 2018

Despite the emergence of what look like monopolies, many companies want to know what their competition is doing. If you have the cash and expertise, you can use tools from Tibco or Quid. But what if money is not flowing like cash into Facebook and Google?

We noted Business 2 Community’s article: “5 Free Tools To Help You Spy On Your Competitors.”

One tool is Google Alerts that can be set up to email you whenever your competition has new online results, while Social Mention is a search engines that specializes in searching social media and other user generated content Web sites. BuzzSumo is probably one of the best tools:

“Want to create content that gets a ton of engagement like your competition does? BuzzSumo is one of the best tools available for content marketing and spying on your competition. With this tool you can enter the domain of your competition and see what content is performing the best for them. BuzzSumo will display how many shares they get on social media and who their biggest influencers are. This valuable information will help you analyze the top performing content topics and formats so that you can step up your content marketing game.”

Likealyzer is a Facebook analyzer that generates reports on well a Facebook page is doing and how it can be improved, while Woorank does the same except for the competition’s Web site.

Will these tools answer your business questions? Probably not in a comprehensive manner. But the free stuff is worth checking out.

Whitney Grace, December 12, 2018

The Obvious: Business Intelligence Tools May Need Clarity

August 14, 2018

Artificial intelligence and business have been a natural pair since the moment we began speculating about this technology. However, we are currently in a sort of golden age of AI for business (or drowning in a swamp of it, depending who you ask) and we could all use a little help sorting through the options. That’s why a recent Data Science Central story “A Comparative Analysis of Top 6 BI and Data Visualization Tools in 2018” seemed so relevant.

According to the story:

“It is often hard to separate the facts from fiction when evaluating various business intelligence (BI) tools, as every BI vendor markets their product as the only “best” solution, often flooding the Internet with biased reviews. If you want to understand the functional product value, avoid the hype and useless clicking through endless pages of partial reviews, you’ve come to the right place.”

This is a very important breakdown and it goes over some really compelling programs, depending on your needs. This seems to be a trend in the industry as we become awash in BI choices. Recently, we also discovered a valuable contrast looking at augmented analytics versus business intelligence tools. What seems obvious is that developers are trying to provide point and click math insight and expertise to individuals who may lack a firm foundation in evaluating data quality, statistics, and other disciplines. No, majoring in medieval literature is not what is needed to make sense of data. To be fair, some find art in proofs.

Insight from slick interfaces? Maybe.

Patrick Roland, August 14, 2018

Amazon and Its Unrest Prediction

July 24, 2018

The Guardian, a “real” newspaper, published “Why the Amazon Boss’s Warning of No-Deal Brexit Unrest Rings Hollow.” The write up is a response to an Amazon executive’s prediction that muffing the Brexit trade deal bunny will lead to “civil unrest.” My interest is not the fate of the UK. I am, however, intrigued by an Amazon executive making a statement similar to those offered by individuals with access to intelligence centric next generation information access systems. (If you want additional information about NGIAs, check out CyberOSINT.)

The question which crossed my mind when I heard about the prediction was:

Does Amazon have access to an NGIA system similar to an IBM Analyst Notebook or a Palantir Gotham?

If the answer is, “No,” then I asked myself:

Does Amazon have its own intelligence analysis system?

From my vantage point in rural Kentucky, I have zero first hand information about Amazon and its possible intelligence capabilities.

It is indeed interesting to have this prediction emitted from what is usually a quite secretive outfit. My instincts suggest that Amazon does have an active intelligence system. This prediction may be a planned or unanticipated factoid by an Amazon executive.

Amazon does have some interesting capabilities, new functions which have been patented, and a number of vendors of policeware and intelware who use the Amazon AWS plumbing.

My takeaway from the prediction and the Guardian type coverage suggests that a closer, more informed look at what Amazon does to inform its executives of possible developments is warranted.

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2018

Business Intelligence: What Is Hot? What Is Not?

July 16, 2018

I read “Where Business Intelligence is Delivering Value in 2018.” The write up summarizes principal findings from a study conducted by Dresner Advisory Services, an outfit with which I am not familiar. I suggest you scan the summary in Cloud Tweaks and then, if you find the data interesting, chase after the Dresner outfit. My hunch is that the sales professionals will respond to your query.

Several items warranted my uncapping my trusty pink marker and circling an item of information.

First, I noticed a chart called Technologies and Initiatives Strategic to Business Intelligence. The chart presents data about 36 “technologies.” I noticed that “enterprise search” did not make the list. I did note that cognitive business intelligence, artificial intelligence, t4ext analytics, and natural language analytics did. If I were generous to a fault, I would say, “These Dresner analysts are covering enterprise search, just taking the Tinker Toy approach by naming areas of technologies.” However, I am not feeling generous, and I find it difficult to believe that Dresner or any other knowledge worker can do “work” without being able to find a file, data, look up a factoid, or perform even the most rudimentary type of research without using search. The omission of this category is foundational, and I am not sure I have much confidence in the other data arrayed in the report.

Second, I don’t know what “data storytelling” is. I suppose (and I am making a wild and crazy guess here) that a person who has some understanding of the source data, the algorithmic methods used to produce output, and the time to think about the likely accuracy of the output creates a narrative. For example, I have been in a recent meeting with the president of a high technology company who said, “We have talked to our customers, and we know we have to create our own system.” Obviously the fellow knows his customers, essentially government agencies. The customers (apparently most of them) want an alternative, and realizes change is necessary. The actual story based on my knowledge of the company, the product and service he delivers, and the government agencies’ budget constraints. The “real story” boils down to: “Deliver a cheaper product or you will lose the contract.” Stories, like those from teenagers who lose their homework, often do not reflect reality. What’s astounding is that data story telling is number eight on the hit parade of initiatives strategic to business intelligence. I was indeed surprised. But governance made the list as did governance. What the heck is governance?

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Business Intelligence Search: Not There Yet

February 20, 2018

Business intelligence applications are indispensable for modern companies, especially if they are focused at being the top of their industry. Apparently one common feature still eludes BI application developers: search. How can something so basic and readily available through open source technology be difficult to master? ZDNet reviews Forrester’s breakdown of the BI landscape in the article, “Make BI Applications More Intuitive With Search Like GUI.”

BI applications are kept relativity simple with a mouse-based user interface, so end user training is kept to a minimum and adoption into systems is easier. One item of concern is that few decision-makers actually access the data directly and rely on their business analysts and other team members to provide them information. BI applications are not so simple, however, and the end users need to be knowledgeable in the data sources and metadata.

Thank goodness that there is a GUI for BI applications and it has natural language processing:

“This has largely come true with natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG) technologies. Users can now ask a question in a natural language (where NLP translates a question to a query, aka text-to-query) and get an answer via a programmatically generated narrative based on the result set returned by the query. The NLG narratives are especially effective when displayed side by side with a visualization. In addition to NLP and NLG capabilities built into BI tools, some BI providers are also creating chatbots as separate applications. These can allow non-technical BI users to ask questions and receive dynamically generated data visualizations and written highlights without knowing anything about the underlying data structures or metadata.”

The question remains if the search application will be decent and usable on newer BI interfaces. Only time and user feedback will tell.

Whitney Grace, February 20, 2018

AI Will Be 2018s Biggest Tech Topic

February 20, 2018

Seems like some algorithm should have predicted this a long time ago, but our best bet is that AI leads the way in most important tech topics of the new year. We are not alone. Datanami recently penned an article, “What Will AI Bring in 2018? Experts Sound Off.”

According to the story:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are often misunderstood and misused terms. Many startups and larger technology companies attempt to boost their appeal by forcing an association with these phrases. Well, the buzz will have to stop in 2018…This will be the year we begin to demand substance to justify claims of anything that’s capable of using data to predict any outcome of any relevance for business, IT or security. While 2018 will not be the year when AI capabilities mature to match human skills and capacity, AI using machine learning will increasingly help organizations make decisions on massive amounts of data that otherwise would be difficult for us to make sense of.

This comes as no surprise to us. AI has been cracking mysteries left and right lately and is finally getting down to seriously important work. Take, for example, how AI is helping solve the opioid crisis. AI will be 2018’s big story and it couldn’t come at a better time for us.

Patrick Roland, February 20, 2018

Financial Research: Rumblings Get Louder

February 8, 2018

Regulations are having causing small tremors in the high altitude research business. I read “U.S. Asset Managers Shake Up Equity research as Banks Cut Back.” The write up offered several pieces of intelligence which might be considered “real” news.

First, outfits with money to invest and “churn” are hiring people who know specific things; for example, a former product manager at a company manufacturing gear related to artificial intelligence. No MBA needed was the take away for me.

Second, big money outfits have cut back on buying research. According to the article, one big money executive stopped buying bank research and learned “that he could live without most of it.”

Third, I highlighted this headache inducing statement for the providers of high end research:

Major global investment banks slashed their equity research budgets from a peak of $8.2 billion in 2008 to $3.4 billion in 2017, according to Frost Consulting. McKinsey projects the top 10 banks will cut those budgets by another 30 percent in the near term…

My question, “What happens to the Investext business?” Another one: “What acquisitions will big money companies make in order to deal with the changes in research?”

Worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2018

Business Intelligence: A List of 238 Firms

November 30, 2017

Need a list of “fermium” business intelligence tools. That’s no typo. That is the word on page 2 of Top Business intelligence Solutions. Looking past the misspelling, the write up from Predictive Analytics Today presents a listing in no particular order of more than 200 business intelligence tools. The text is accompanied by little boxes with scores in them like this:


The list was a lot of work. The names of companies are collected in these major categories:

  1. Free cloud business intelligence solutions
  2. Free open source business intelligence tools
  3. Free proprietary business intelligence tools
  4. Open source commercial business intelligence tools
  5. Top business intelligence companies
  6. Free extract, transform and load software
  7. Top extract, transform and load software
  8. Cloud SaaS on demand business intelligence solutions
  9. Freemium cloud business intelligence solutions
  10. Open source balanced scorecard software
  11. Top balanced scorecard software
  12. Open source and free dashboard software
  13. Top dashboard software
  14. Embedded business software
  15. Open source and free unified modeling language tools
  16. Open source and free business process management tools

What I found interesting about the list was:

  • For fee vendors appear in “free” categories; for example, IBM Watson and Microsoft
  • Many of the vendors have versions of their software for the intelligence and law enforcement community. Most of these versions of the companies with specialized tools are not free
  • None of the specialist firms which I track appear on the list; for example, BAE Systems, a company whose tools rival those of many of the other firms on the list.
  • The vendor Attivio was left out. This surprised me because Attivio pitches itself as a business intelligence solution and it has a tie up with Tibco, a product dependent in part on software created by the founders of Recorded Future, a company which I track because it has robust intelligence capabilities embodied in its products and services.
  • There are curious omissions. One important one is Palantir, whose Gotham product powers a number of commercial business intelligence applications like those from Thomson Reuters’ financial product line.
  • Many vendors appear in multiple categories. This left me confused. For major vendors it would have been helpful to provide the company name “IBM” with a summary of what the company offers as free, freemium, open source, proprietary, etc.

Nevertheless, the listing is interesting for those wanting to track some of the vendors pursuing the business intelligence sector. To learn about companies not on the Predictive Analytics’ list, follow DarkCyber, my weekly video program. Each week, I profile intelligence companies which are often off the radar of some commercial procurement teams. That’s unfortunate because the firms I follow are indeed cutting edge when it comes to real life intelligence analysis. Most of these products, in my experience, cost money either for engineering, training, support, or add ons.

You can find the video by navigating to this link or running a query for Arnold Dark Cyber on or on

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2017

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