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Collaborative BI Implies a Personalized Grapevine – but, make it Smart Alerting or its all Blah! February 12, 2007

Posted by Cyril Brookes in BI Requirements Definition, General, Issues in building BI reporting systems, Tacit (soft) information for BI.

Effective collaboration depends on the dynamic creation of groups that can exchange and share intelligence. Collaborating people in a group create knowledge; often it is new knowledge that can improve business performance. However, finding the right group participants, and disseminating the knowledge to empower action, both require targeted, selective dissemination, of information – that’s personalization. Truly, I heard it on the grapevine!

Some regard personalized alerting in BI as creating a “market of one” for information..

I disagree. As I see it, it is creating a group of relevant people, the “A list” if you will, for the issue at hand. How can this happen, not occasionally with serendipity, but routinely? Groups must be dynamic, different for each issue, expanding and contracting in size as the issue grows in importance, or declines.

Markets of one work for marketing situations, e.g. books with Amazon.com, but I don’t believe it is the paradigm for collaborative BI.

Clearly, the traditional BI report, with information prepared by others submitted to potential decision makers is discredited. Today we have lakes and lakes of information available; Herbert Simon got it right in 1971: “Information abundance creates scarcity of attention”. And one can add: Knowledge poverty.

Informing decision makers doesn’t cut it anymore. Maybe it never did? We need to change the process, introducing dynamics to the grapevine.

Issues grow in business importance when people, in the know, determine they have grown in importance. There’s no other way.

All messages, ideas, news items, etc. on a topic are not of the same value or criticality to a business. Most are irrelevant to decision makers; they are waffle, padding, dross, blah.

Some of those items will be interesting to the professional; fewer are important, business-wise; but very few are critical to the business. How do we distinguish? Well, it’s simple: subject experts tell us they’re critical.

If you’re still with me, Dear Reader, personalized alerting, selective dissemination, of intelligence items on a topic can only be effective, therefore, if someone tells us (or the dissemination authority/process) what is important and what is not.

I don’t believe that automated importance classification works in practice – in a business anyway. It might do for spooks, but not the rest of us.

Some years ago, I built a selective dissemination collaboration system based on a patented importance escalation process. I called it grapeVINE. It employed this model of escalation and dynamic audiences for information. It was most effective when seeded with news, marketing reports, or other items. They were automatically classified, using a standard taxonomy or vocabulary, and selectively disseminated based on client interest profiles.

grapeVINE’s special character emerged when a subject expert commented on an item, raising it’s importance level – saying something like “this is important because the implications are….”. Immediately the audience would increase for this, and only this, discussion thread. More people are interested in important stuff than dross. One of these new recipients might then escalate the discussion further, bringing in more people – likely action oriented players. Then the game is on.

Two dimensional personalization of business intelligence, based on a combination of subject matter and importance to the business, is an effective driver of dynamic group formation.

Provided the culture of sharing is established in the business (and that’s an important IF), the potential for improvement in decision making is immense. It is the optimal vehicle for combining structured (numeric) and unstructured (text) information into BI systems.

Paraphrasing Crocodile Dundee: THIS IS A GRAPVINE!



1. Collaboration and Knowledge History Creation in BI – The Twin Pyramid Model « Cyril on Business Intelligence - October 2, 2007

[…] that this is a big issue with me. I believe most businesses do it badly, for the reasons I’ve already given. But to explain how it needs to be “operationalized” we need to look at pyramids, one regular […]

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