Disposable Business Intelligence, Part 1: Momentary Value Over Permanence
There is a lot of speculation on the future trends of business intelligence in the information industry. One observation many of us are trying to get our heads around is the impermanence and entropic decay of information we are beginning to witness. This shift is having an impact on how we view information and how data will be maintained and analyzed in the future.
The thought of information impermanence led me to think about the shift in how we curate family photographs. As a youth, I remember my mother would take the film from our 35mm camera and have it developed weeks or months after they were taken. Their value was not realized until she brought the prints home and placed them into our family photo albums. She even took the negatives and stored them in a safe deposit box in case something disastrous, like a house fire, destroyed our photo albums—a 1980s low-tech form of disaster recovery, I guess. The persistence of that information was important to her, and she did not want to lose it. I am thankful for this, because I can flip through those binders of plastic sleeve pages and relive some memories.
Fast forward to me as an adult, I take thousands of photos every year with a digital camera (my phone actually). Just like my mother, I curate those digital photos into digital albums and protect the virtual “negatives” by storing them in the Cloud. I do this in the same spirit as my mom, because I want my daughter to have these to look back on and remember her adolescence someday too.
I have noticed a difference though. When I was growing up, my mom probably only went through a roll of film (approximately 30 pictures) every few months (except at birthdays and the holidays), so maybe there were a couple hundred photos a year. On average, I take a couple thousand photos a year. Given that fact, the speed and business of life and the rapid pace of change, I rarely find the time to go back and reminisce over family photos I’ve taken. Through that, I have realized the real value of a photograph is not the image itself, but the experience of what was happening in that moment of time.
I now observe young people of my daughter’s generation, and I observe another new phenomenon. They take many more photos than I ever will, but instead of archiving and curating them, they share them. Once the photo is shared, its value diminishes almost as quickly as the moment passed that they were capturing and sharing. Instagram and Facebook are the Kodak and Fox Photo of my childhood—the place where the value of photographic information peaks. It now seems that for many young people, photos are disposable.
Typically, disposable has a connotation of low value. Disposable goods are typically low cost, and therefore, not valuable enough to keep once their initial use is complete. A Styrofoam cup is a perfectly good cup and could feasibly be used over and over. However, most people will toss it in the trash once their drink is gone. However, the value of the cup is not in its permanence, but that I could not have enjoyed a fountain drink without it. So for a few minutes, the cup is valued, and becomes worthless once the last drop is gone.
These examples lead me to think about the implications for business intelligence (BI) and analytics. In my career of developing BI and analytics, I have observed a similar phenomenon to that of photographs. The analysis I have performed seems to have its peak interest and value in the eyes of executives and decision makers the moment the insight is gained. I used BI to bring forth the data they needed to help them make a critical decision or understand a business scenario. The BI I provided was highly valued in that moment. My takeaway from that experience is business intelligence has more value in the moment of gained insight than in its permanence in curating measurements and ongoing decision-making.
Are BI and analytics headed down the path of impermanence? Are they becoming disposable? I am beginning to think so and will explore that in the next week’s post.
Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.