Reporting Tools Can’t Fix Bad Data

By on in with 2 Comments

Stephen Few wrote a brilliant (and rather scathing) post recently: Big BI is Stuck: Illustrated by SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. In the post, he extensively quotes marketingspeak from various SAP executives and then picks apart their claims. He follows that part of the post with excerpts from a review of their new BusinessObjects Explorer that highlights that, (alas!), the tool is not the killer app that makes access to all data easy and intuitive. Of course, SAP is by no means the first company to underdeliver on that promise!

The quote that really jumped out for me in the post, though, was this one:

Anyone who understands BI, however, knows that no interface, no matter how magical, will give you access to data that isn’t available, will clean data that is dirty, or will simplify the navigation of complicated operational databases.

That quote alone warranted a mini-blog post, if for no other reason than to allow me to quickly get my hands on it in the future when I’m in the midst of bashing my head against a cinder block wall of requests for crisp, clean analytic insights from a messy, messy world of data.

Mr. Few, I already had you placed high on a pedestal. Please accept this footstool upon which you can perch to be raised up just a little bit higher thanks to the clarity and insight within that one sentence you have penned!

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  1. Reporting tools (or dashboards) can’t fix bad data, but they can visualize them well. So, managers can act upon it, and get rid of the data quality process and governance. I do not agree with your statement that BI can’t give you access to data that isn’t available. One of the most succesfull BI applications is to show items that are not in the database, for example the products that customers didn’t buy but they should buy, because similar customers did it before. And that’s the difference between reporting tools and BI tools, reporting tools contain not any intelligence, BI tools or platforms in general do.

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