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When Business Intelligence and Social Networking Unite

The confluence between a relatively new technology and a more established one (BI).
Jan | 4 | 2010

Jan | 4 | 2010

With a new decade upon us, exciting new technologies are both changing the very definition of work and  engendering a wide array of new possibilities. I would put these possibilities into two broad categories:

  1. Things not possible even five years ago that are now possible
  2. Things previously possible but now augmented by the first category

My second book, The Next Wave of Technologies, strikes a nice balance between the two. The possibilities of improving existing technologies via new ones just make me giddy.

For example, check out this short video by Rob Ashe, former CEO of Cognos before IBM acquired the company. Ashe discusses an excellent example of the confluence between a relatively new technology (social networking) and a more established one (BI).  (Incidentally, there are chapters on both topics in The Next Wave.) This is a perfect example of the whole exceeding the sum of its parts.

How One Technology Extends Another

I first worked with BI tools back in 1998, in particular Cognos PowerPlay and Impromptu. I was impressed way back then and these tools are a far cry from what they are today. There was always the opportunity for someone to “share” feedback with IT and other end-users. To this end, social networking changes nothing.

Except that it changes everything. As Ashe correctly points out, social networking vastly improves the ease with which data can be exchanged, synthesized, and even improved. By allowing for much greater collaboration, social networking enables better BI. It is for this reason that I consider both technologies part of Enterprise 2.0.


Talk to me. What else is possible? Can you see other connections and possibilities?

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  1. Jim Hunt

    There seem to be so many possibilities but clearly some technologies are more complementary than others. I can’t imagine that each combination makes sense.

    These two go well together, though.

  2. Jim Harris

    Excellent post, Phil.

    The use of social networking tools within the safety of the corporate intranet is what companies should really be most excited about when it comes to social media.

    (Not that excitement of a potentially different, but still important, kind doesn’t await them out in the serendipitous “Series of Tubes” also known as the Internet, but that’s another discussion.)

    To the other Jim’s point, it is true that every combination may not make sense – social networking tools aren’t chocolate or cheese, i.e., combining them with anything doesn’t necessarily always make it better.

    However, the greatly improved model of communication and collaboration that social networking can provide (and not just for business intelligence) cannot be overstated.

  3. philsimon

    Great comments, Jims.

    It will be interesting to see if many organizations can get combinations of technologies right, given that they were so unsuccessful with so many on an individual level.

  4. Tanja Ubert

    I think that BI kan be a killer app on the new ipad if BI embrases osx.
    It combines the easy to use interface with spectacular ways of displaying and manipulating data.
    Now we develop for (and with tools on) windows while the main users are tending to mac’s osx because of its usability.

  5. Dean

    I found your site with great interest as I’ve been trying to get a handle on who is thinking about the convergence of BI and Social Networking. I’ve been developing a web site for 8 years now and in 2009 added some features (requested by the CDC) that essentially do just that, combine social networking with BI, but not in the way your video describes.
    I’m not ready to spill the beans but I think my approach will make BI much more user friendly in a social networking environment than supposing the answer lies in the mashup approach. Unfortunately its drained every last penny I can spare and now I need vc.


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