Business Intelligence & Abstract Expressionism

09. 08. 18 John Chapman

Draw up a project plan, one that has all the appropriate elements. Show the Gantt view. It looks good, we can see the path ahead. Waterfall is an idyllic term. One that brings to mind picturesque images of places near and afar. Adventure but not too adventurous. Reduce the uncertainty. We want to be safe, sure, confident in where we are going. Design it, build it, test it, train the users and go live with it. Like building a house, follow the steps and then "voila!" the finished article appears. After all we know what it is going to look like.

Now for Business Intelligence projects. Do we know what it is going to look like? Unlikely. We need creativity, spontaneity, vision, innovation, the freedom

to try out ideas. Is this the equivalent of abstract expressionism? Our team being action painters who work in a spontaneous improvisatory manner. Not constrained by ideological ideas of what the project plan should look like. To the purist it is ‘rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic’

We start with our ‘canvas’. This data warehouse is our source of paints. The data content each a primary colour waiting to be mixed.

Harold Rosenberg is quoted as saying "At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event".

The business modelling commences. What visualisation to use? A scatter chart, a tree map, a funnel? These things cannot be designed in advance, which the Waterfall method says has to be done. Instead we choose a visualisation method and look at the output. Does it need changing? Select again. Perhaps a combination is required on the screen to represent the data, the visualisation of the information.

The end result is something different. The pictorial representation there to make us think. Think about what we have learnt. What did it show to us? How should our behaviours, our processes, our actions change?

AC Grayling writes that Art "is often an attempt to capture an aspect of the world, to draw attention to something about it, to comment on it, to present a surprising or fresh angle on it".

The result of a Business Intelligence project presents a fresh angle, something surprising. It is there to provoke, to make us think, to take us out of our comfort zone. The plan at the start does not look like a ‘normal’ plan. It might look abstract. Expressions, ideas, creativity is what is asked for. To deliver this requires what some might consider abstract approaches to project delivery. For those experienced in Business Intelligence, it is the only way.

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John Chapman

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John Chapman