Stafford Beer’s “Attenuation” concept – how to implement it in BI reporting July 28, 2006Posted by Cyril Brookes in BI Requirements Definition, General, Stafford Beer.
My July 7 post on Stafford Beer’s legacy for BI professionals gave an overview as to how I implement his concepts in my BI designs. Here is some more detail on one of these principles – Attenuation.
Attenuation in BI is the art and science of presenting information to executives in such a way that they are:
Aware of the current status of the business
Satisfied that situations requiring their attention are highlighted, and
Alerted to unusual situations that may presage problems or opportunities
This obviously requires specification of pre-formatted, on-demand or ad-hoc reporting. Executives will know, or can be helped determine, what they need to know to meet these three objectives.
Theory indicates that there are 3 possible ways to implement Attenuation in BI reporting for the above objectives:
Where Are We? – Summarize the situation, tell the executive the status
What’s Good and Bad about where we are? – Compare, compute exceptions, find the executive’s problems
What’s unusual, and what’s forecast? – Find out what is obscured by noise in the data and alert the executive
A creative BI design will present information using these three approaches.
Attenuated information, derived from a mass of transactions data, and augmented by tacit (soft) data where appropriate, can give huge benefits to the executive – it just needs some mental effort applied in a structured manner.
Of course, we also need to ensure balance of reporting scope, in the Balanced Scorecard manner. I believe this is a different concept, and is best handled via the template of potential KPIs that forms part of a comprensive methodology.
If you’re interested, check my technique for doing this at www.bipathfinder.com where I explain this in more detail, including the template design aspect.
I’ll cover Stafford’s Amplification next time round.