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B
BA

BA is a term learned from the far-eastern culture and its Knowledge Management. BA, translated as "space" is a "shared area intended for enhancing/developing relationships". The BA can be physical, such as a coffee spot at organizations or an assembly room for professional forums. It can be a virtual BA such an internet chat-room. Yet it can also be spiritual, such as the work process, in which informal relationships develop (e.g. between suppliers and customers). The BA is of course fertile ground for creating new knowledge.

BAR

BAR (Before Action Review) is a complimentary term for AAR (After Action Review) which serves as the most popular debriefing method in the US and originates from the navy. AAR is performed following activities and is as simple as it is effective. BAR, on the other hand, is a process performed prior to performance.

The BAR includes four questions:

  1. What are the planned results and related KPI’s?
  2. What challenges can we predict?
  3. What have others or we learned from similar situations?
  4. What will make it succeed this time?

The beauty of this method, besides its simplicity, is its synergy with the AAR questions combined by using these two complementary sets of debriefing questions.

 

BI 2.0

The term 2.0 is taking over our lives. It all started with Tim Oreille inventing, together with the convention company the term WEB2.0 way back in 2004. The term is meant to express optimism regarding overcoming the crisis the whole DOT COM world experienced following the bubble bursting. And indeed, new wind did blow then and still blows now. We rose from the recession and flourished (and hopefully continue to do so). It took time for the term to catch on, but from 2007 on it certainly became one of the more popular terms. I personally receive many invitations to lecture on the subject.

During the second half of 2006, people began talking about KM2.0. The connection is clear: WEB views the extra-organizational world; Knowledge Management views the intra-organizational world. The methodological principles of WEB2.0 are substantially compatible with the familiar principles of KM: the centrality of the user who shares and contributes knowledge. KM personnel were jealous (and in my opinion, rightfully so) of the success of WEB2.0; and how do many people create and share knowledge without being requested to do so. It is noteworthy point out that KM personnel have been trying to reach this goal for years and have been investing substantial effort in these attempts. The analogy seemed natural. Yet lately we are witnessing an expansion of this phenomenon. Nearly every field related to computers is embracing the desired suffix: 2.0. And so is the world of Business intelligence. I introduce to you, BI2.0.

So, what is BI2.0 and what do clients benefit from it?

There are two different schools of thought regarding the definition of BI2.0. Some define it as a leap forwards from the current situation, regardless of the essence of the change to WEB2.0. Just like WEB leaped forward, so did we. Others view the nature of the WEB2.0 change compared to WEB1 and also deduce the type of advance. Let's break it down:

The first approach regards BI2.0 as a leap forward, mainly technologically: IDC regard BI2.0 as "decision-centric BI". By this they refer to BI centered on decision making. The definition is somewhat vague, since this is the core purpose of BI: supporting deciding operational, tactical and strategic decisions, whether by receiving notification of deviations or as part of an analysis/forecasting process. Where is this leap? The commentators explain: focusing BI on following business events; positioning the decision closer to real time; using SOA technology and other WEB2.0 technologies. Here, the main innovation becomes clear. No more relying on an information centre that may be updated monthly, weekly or daily. Rather, receiving information which is more business-oriented and accessible. BI2.0 technology will allow this as part of the Mainstream.

It is noteworthy to point out that Gartner also relate to up and coming technological innovations in the world of BI (an interactive visual interface, memory analysis, incorporating BI into searches, BI as a service and SOA) but don't refer to these innovations as BI2.0. Another list in this context that exists as the definition of BI2.0 is innovations in the following fields: performance management; integrative planning; operational BI and BI incorporated into systems (which are both connected); BI portals; performance environment and integration into Office; searching and sharing BI; advanced visualization techniques; advanced analytical forecasting tools; BI as a service; open code for BI; organizational integration of data; obscure data; MDM,; products avoce the DW and BI; Excellence centers for BI and merging data.

This indeed suits the definition: a collection of innovations of different sorts packaged collectively as BI2.0.

The second approach regards BI2.0 as the implementer of the principles of WEB2.0:

This approach discusses the centrality of the user in the BI environment. The innovations here are related to the simplicity of the usage (and there are many contradicting interpretations of this seemingly simple term); to a wide approach to varied information (also outside the database); to search abilities using standard search tools; to sharing over data. BI2.0, according to one opinion, will not substitute traditional BI; it will complete it. Traditional BI will remain a central tool for analysts while the new approach will enable overcoming the "unpredictable", that which is situated outside the world of databases, outside of the world of regular inquiries and interrogation. According to another opinion, the purpose of BI2.0 which enables simplicity is to enable the awaited BI for the masses (i.e. all layers of the organization).

Traditional BI

BI2.0

Spoon feeding most users. Prepared environments.

Simple tools which enable people to search independently and perform a Mash-up.

Expensive sophisticated tools.

Pressure by the market to prefer simple technology for the masses rather overt functionality.

Some real time applications (credit cards and plane booking as main examples).

A demand for fresh information from many resources in real time.

An organized database and a single truth as a basis for analysts work.

Incorporating content from different sources as a partial substitute for a database. Instead of a single truth-context (when each item is appropriate) and complex information (since there is no single truth)

There is no analytical interrogation of the operational systems.

No reason not to interrogate. Interrogations will be performed using SOA.

Information must sit in an organized database in order for it to be analyzed.

Various temporary sources of information.

 

Raden also regards the integration and differentiation between different users: no more analysts versus manager versus simple user. Everyone is a bit of both.

Regardless of the approach we choose, it is clear to everyone that BI in its new form is wider and the difference between it and other fields is becoming distorted. Nearly everyone dealing with BI2.0 is dealing simultaneously with testing the boundaries differentiating BI from EDM (Enterprise Decision Management); between BI and BPM (Note: I am referring to Business Performance Management and Business Process Management); between BI and CPM (Corporate Performance Management); between BI and CEP (Complex Event Management); and between BI and BAM (Business Activity Monitoring). My feeling is that there were indeed many different fields, which each had its uniqueness, but at the end of the day they will all be consolidated into one common field. It will take time, since all experts in the field still proclaim the uniqueness of their field. To a bystander who reads the emphases and differences, it seems like a bunch of subtleties which are insignificant compared to the vast common denominator.

Where are we headed to? I believe that before we reach simplicity and user-centrality, we will have to go through another phase of technological upgrade that will raise more possibilities and more abilities and will thus distance us from simplicity. The "rebellious" stage of returning to simplicity (such as the Google interface) will come in time, but probably only as a later phase. We probably need to reach the edge in order for us to understand that we have overdone the whole technological phase. It seems that the "technological leap forward" approach will come before the "user centrality" approach. The road to BI2.0, according to the second approach, which is focused on essence, is long ahead. We have many miles to go before we even reach this road. Do not despair. With much patience, we will eventually reach there.

Bidirectional Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence improves organizations' decision making. Whether a strategic, tactical or operational decision a combination of the right data at the right time in the right format is critical for optimal decision making.

Bidirectionality is a movement or action usually performed in two opposite directions. Both large and small organizations struggle with the challenges presented by Business Intelligence. In smaller organizations data control is more available yet as the organization grows larger data "islands" are formed as experts keep their information in personal folders and local Excel sheets. Despite the great work invested by IT departments in developing BI infrastructures, the real challenge they face is granting access to said data "islands". If when required, indirect resources are invested to retrieve the information (sending an email to the content expert, calling relevant parties, browsing through network folders to find the right file), BI is apparently flowing in one direction only.

Bidirectional BI transforms BI into an interactive application by incorporating BI into operational systems and presenting users the data while they use the system. The result: a user can make decisions based on data and operate the system. Thus a "closed circuit" is created, allowing the organization to learn from edge users' insights for its benefit. BI then becomes bidirectional since it is based on data received from operational systems and directed back at them to benefit comprehension and improve decision making.

Take Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) operational systems for example. Suppose a manager in this field detects a problem in the making, they can operate according to data while consuming new data via bidirectional BI, all while using only one system. While in traditional BI actions can be performed only after review and use of complementary systems, involving system managers, emails, calls and even meetings will ultimately lead to the reaction and change being executed only a few days later. Organizations' main motive to use smart tools in this field is to increase the organization's responsiveness to rapid demands for change. ERP requires much integrative and ongoing operation of data systems as well as transparency; Bidirectional BI is therefore a step in the right direction.

Another driving force behind Bidirectional BI is WEB-based. These systems allow users to interact with data. In a way, these systems resemble regular applications that offer updates. A WEB system can also make data accessible to users more easily since users are accustomed to the user-friendly interface.

 Some would say that a bidirectional system might affect data reliability, a real concern when utilizing open unmonitored systems. Yet experience shows that BI systems can classify authorization and distribute control, thus deciding who can view data and who is permitted to update it as well as  enables creating rules determining  how the data may change if needed (colleague monitoring, expert monitoring, etc.) to defend the system's data reliability.

Bidirectional BI provides workers with high-quality solid real-time decision-making skills while also contributing to a friendlier decision making process thus proving users with a sense of preparedness and adds value to the individual worker. An increase of use can be indirectly viewed since users possess an in-depth understanding and sense of ownership towards the data, ultimately leading to improved organizational efficiency.

Most organizations work in a one-dimensional model centered around the concept of data collection>>data display>>data consumption. There is no attempt at interaction or data update in real-time. The power of Bidirectional BI lays in granting user control thus allowing them to face diversity and frequency of changes the data which knowledge workers must acquire, process and finally act accordingly goes through. In some cases, this allows users to affect data (unlike the usual state of data consumption and analysis only).

This trend is changing over time: more organizations are considering implementing BI systems in operational systems, creating a "closed circuit" and bidirectionality of BI systems.

 

References:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/bidirectional/archive/2006/03/30/564739.aspx

http://smartdatacollective.com/david-abramson/40127/bidirectional-business-intelligence-what-you-need-knowa

 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/bidirectional

http://www.dataversity.net/bidirectional-business-intelligence/

http://www.amalnet.k12.il/Organization/RightMenu/%D7%97%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%A8+%D7%AA%D7%99%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%98%D7%99/%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%94%D7%95%D7%9C+%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%AA+%D7%94%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%A7%D7%94/?myId=1002-1026

Brain Writing

Five friends enter a restaurant, and debate what to order. This is not the beginning of a joke, rather a familiar situation. The waiter asks around the table and each person orders in turn. The first is still debating, maybe consulting and so is the second. The last person is almost certainly influenced by the first person's order, simply because that's how we as people are programmed: we are attentive to others beside us, feed off their reactions and in many cases adapt ourselves to them merely because it is more pleasant not to be different or bold.

This aforementioned saying is based on Dan Ariely's 'Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions' (HarperCollins, 2008) which taught us the advantages of granting everyone the chance to express ideas independently and not be affected by other's (even subliminally).  The result: more creativity.

The situation we have described occurs a lot during brainstorming meetings.

Imagine a situation in which you are facing a large team of participants which is supposed to discuss a problem and figure out how to solve it, and the discussion is…stuck. The expectations, namely to receive diverse and innovative ideas, are not being realized.

Something in the group dynamics is inhibiting the process from actualizing. It might be different levels of motivation. It might be different levels of sharing. Whatever it is, it must be resolved in order for the group to function.

What should we do?

We should use other abilities. There are options other than talking.

Hand out sheets of paper, with space for defining the problem and enough blank space for suggesting ideas for solutions. Every participant in turn adds another idea and passes the page to the participant beside him/her.

And that is, practically speaking, a brainstorming session.

This method allows participants with idea who are hesitant to suggest in a larger group to make them explicit anonymously. The competition element becomes secondary and the need to be heard is expressed differently.

Note: it is important to remember that it is possible that participants experience "blank page syndrome", i.e. the fear from being the first one writing. In order to avoid these cases, it is recommended to prepare an idea in advance so that the participant do not need to start from scratch and can enable the process to flow.

 

 

What should we remember?

  1. To define the mission.
  2. To limit each participant's time with the page.
  3. To remind the participants to read what others wrote before them before adding an idea, while encouraging them to feel free to change and/or add.

Where and when is it best to apply the method?

  • In events with many participants.
  • In teams in which the participants don't know each other sufficiently and/or feel comfortable together.
  • In cases in which much information needs to be collected quickly.

 

Good luck!

References

 

 


http://creatingminds.org/tools/brainwriting.htm
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/12/16/using-brainwriting-for-rapid-idea-generation/

 

Business Analyst

Definition

A business analyst is the mediating factor between the organization and the IT department. His main role is to analyze the current state of the organization and plan, based on this analysis, Information systems, objectives, strategy etc. In the following section of the article I will discuss the question: what does a business analyst contribute to the organization and how is this contribution manifested. This question is important since for many years organizations have gotten along just fine without business analysts.

 

The business analyst's contribution to an organization

Generally speaking, the objective of a business analysis is to identify changes in the organization's needs and its conduct. The role of a business analyst in this context is to characterize a change process suitable for the organization and to manage it so that it is actualized and assimilated optimally for all relevant interested parties.

The business analyst's work can affect both on the level of the organization's units (It department, business units, change management departments) and on the level of the essence of the change and process-defining strategy, changing organizational structure, setting goals for projects and supporting the improvement of processes and technologies.

In addition to his/her direct contribution in this position, the business analyst serves as an agent of change and business analysis is a discipline to instill and manage change in the organization.

 

Why is it so important to integrate a business analyst in addition to a systems analyst?

Systems analysts are aimed at one target, which is the product intended for the organization's development teams. This product is manifested in the writing of work documents, system characterization and architectural drafts intended for the development personnel. Therefore, the 'language' the systems analyst will mainly use is the 'language' of development, which is spoken by both the analyst and the development department. This means that the systems analyst usually 'speaks' a language foreign to most of his customers (management, business units, etc). A business analyst, on the other hand, is by definition aimed at the organization and its members. The analyst deals with comprehending and analyzing the organization's needs and designing the organizational conduct. The product of this work is meant for the organization and as such is written in the organization's language.

And indeed, many organizations worldwide have begun to understand in the last few years that a systems analyst does not provide the organization with a sufficient solution and the situation requires the integration of a business analyst. These organizations understood that analyzing a knowledge system has substantial financial implications and that a business analyst is vital in managing a process and adapting it to the organization (and not only development units). And so little by little business analysis is becoming an integral and important profession in organizations. In some cases, integrating business analysts will be done via integrating knowledge workers or by assigning designated position holders to the subject.

 

In conclusion

A business analyst is an important factor for an organization facing meaningful changes of any sort. Her/his objective is to mediate and organize the assigned fields in the organization, to learn the organization's structure, its policy and actions and recommend different business solutions (whether technological solutions or organizational changes) that enable the organization to achieve its objectives. The analyst also deals with instilling into the organization changes that are not necessarily technology oriented into the organization. This, I believe, is its edge over the systems analyst.

 

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