Donald Farmer: Browsing and Business Intelligence – Canadian Government Executive

NEWS

SEARCH

BusinessKnowledge ManagementManagementPerformance
October 19, 2015

Donald Farmer: Browsing and Business Intelligence

Written by Donald Farmer

Too often, we base Business Intelligence today on a simple premise: that people are logical decision-makers. In this light, common BI practices promise that the right data, in the right format, at the right time, will help you toward better outcomes. However, as human beings, we just don’t work that way. What influences your knowledge workers’ outcomes? It’s not just the right data; it’s also the surroundings they work in, and their feelings as they decide.

You may be thinking we can’t do much to change the mind-set of our decision-makers. All we can do is provide that best data in the best format and make sure our visualizations and results are as precise as possible. Can we really control anything else? In fact, I do believe we can help to give users a more complete understanding of the data and motivations behind their choices.

We are all familiar with one handy interaction that is radically different from traditional approaches to data: the simple, but potent, interface of the internet search engine. However, the use of search can seem counter-intuitive for a BI practitioner, because searches often return data points by the thousand and we know from experience how many prove less than useful. Yet, even though they deliver a near-overwhelming flood of results, search engines have a great advantage for the new and advanced user alike. They allow for browsing, or what Peter Pirolli has called “Information Foraging.”

Pirolli’s theory sees us foraging for information in a very similar way to animals hunting for food. We receive a great deal from the information environment, browsing through cues, or “information scent,” for the pieces we want. We may return more data with less structure – but enhanced by good browsing tools giving cues to content and relevance – and still provide better insights than presenting a small, focused, result set. Hunting and foraging represent basic human skills that help us to navigate the data surrounding us. You can get better results and better information through browsing and foraging compared to our accustomed structured queries.

We should also appreciate that the touch interface is a significant improvement to browsing. Touch interfaces feel satisfyingly intuitive. Everyone can understand the simplicity: using a fingertip to navigate and act. When applied to business, the possibilities seem endless. Learning from my own work in the field with customers, I know they happily spend more time navigating and exploring in a program when using a touch application, compared to a conventional desktop interface. We often call the touch interface of the tablet a relaxed “lean-back experience” compared to the more directed “lean forward” world of the desktop. More time spent foraging the data means more discoveries and insights, precisely because users are able to casually browse in a more natural setting. Furthermore, the touch experience is inherently exploratory. With a new tablet app, the first thing you are likely to try is exploring the interface and seeing what artifacts onscreen respond to touch, and which features reveal new information.

I believe Business Intelligence as a practice should not first and foremost aim to narrow the data space to a restricted set of predetermined answers, delivered in response to a well-defined query. If you can formulate that query well enough, then probably you have mostly found your way to the answer already. The exploratory foraging experience, what I often call the discovery experience, enables users to find things they didn’t even know they were looking for. Browsing opens up a world of information. As BI practitioners, that’s what we need to strive for. It’s not just about the data – it’s about the truly important insights we can uncover when our users are enabled with tools that support and expand our instincts.

Donald Farmer is a featured speaker at CGE’s Leadership Summit on November 18 in Ottawa. He is Qlik’s Vice President of Innovation and Design and has over twenty years’ experience in analytics and data management. In that time he has worked as a consultant, in startups and as a leader of Microsoft’s BI product teams. He’s an established and sought-after speaker in the sphere of business intelligence, data integration and data management, in addition to maintaining an active blog and authoring several books.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Business
 
Security professionals have an obligation to communicate risks and recommendations to...
 
During the past decade, the international university-level student population in Canada...
 
Professionals, managers, and executives in the cost estimation industry can gain...
 
Canadian Government Executive kicked off its CGE Leadership Series for 2017...
 
A new study from the Conference Board of Canada gives our...
 
As the 5th largest agricultural exporter on the planet, Canada plays...
 
In this episode, hear more about how Canada is a prime...
 
In the recent June issue, we published a captivating piece by...
 
The October issue of Canadian Government Executive on Focusing on Customer...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Executive compensation is considered to be a central component of corporate...
 
Open source was established around the ethos of sharing and collaboration....
 
In December last year, a privately owned aerial drone crashed into...
 
By Gregory Richards A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute suggests...
 
Last week the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that...
 
Written by Donald Farmer Too often, we base Business Intelligence today...
 
Written By Chris Brown To deliver results that senior executives value,...
 
Written By Jason McNaught Contrary to what you may have heard,...
 
Written by  Gail Vallance Barrington Anyone who has commissioned a program...
 
“Public institutions are the cornerstone of our democratic system” is the...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
A neuromarketing study examines exactly how much life direct mail continues...
 
As one of the U.S. Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, Program...
 
Many people say that managing projects is all about managing people...
 
Some of us can only dream of being 20 years old...
 
“With SMARTnership, we have to look into communication, being trustworthy, convincing...
 
Wreaths are placed at the naming ceremony for the new Canadian...
 
Barry Shepherd, the principal surveyor and client support manager for Central...
 
In 2012, the province of Prince Edward Island held a business...
 
The challenges city leaders now face require creativity and innovation. Many...
 
Depending on how you count, 10-20 percent of all Canadian public...
 
In a 2011 white paper published by the Internal Federation of...
 
For the last few years, governments around the world have been...
 
Compensation is often raised as a key tool that can either...
 
The Canadian mining industry is responsible for over 4.5 percent of...
 
Governments throughout Canada are facing a number of challenges, from reducing...
 
Since its founding, Canada has looked either east to Europe or...
 
It is a good management practice to review programs and activities...
 
Few things catalyze infrastructure faster than a major international sporting event....
 
What can you say about the future of long range public...
 
In Canada, it seems like any discussion of copyright quickly turns...
 
We live in a time when physical and digital infrastructures built...
 
How are leaders responding to a competitive and economic environment unlike...
 
We live in times of significant demographic and technological transition across...
 
Public-private partnerships (P3s) have become increasingly important in Canada at both...
 
Les citoyens souhaitent expliquer aux politiciens et aux décideurs ce qu’ils...
 
The need for better accountability has led Treasury Board to enforce...
 
It begs the question: Are federal real property professionals ready to...
 
With an annual deficit of $36.2 billion, the federal government is...
 
It now appears that Canada will emerge earlier than expected from...
 
Strong portfolio management is increasingly important in today’s interconnected world....
 
Early in 2011, the National Quality Institute (NQI) board of governors...
 
The Public Service Modernization Act, which came into force in 2005,...
 
In the current economic climate, the finance function role in the...
 
We live in exciting times: an unprecedented level of innovation is...
 
Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector is booming, and the amount of...
 
The Economic Action Plan showed how much can be achieved when...
 
Public Works and Government Services Canada has a new and innovative...
 
Citizens may not always look forward to applying and paying for...
 
Maintaining and investing in water and waste water treatment facilities, roads,...
 
Stakeholders and media are currently focusing substantial attention on executive compensation....
 
The spectre of wrongdoing within a department can send chills down...
 
Il n’y a pas si longtemps, les Beatles chantaient : «...
 
The Beatles once sang, “You say you want a revolution? Well,...
 
An idea – that’s where it all starts. Entrepreneurs travel a...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Quote of the week politicians provide the energy generated by ideology,...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Security professionals have an obligation to communicate risks and recommendations to...

Member Login

Forgot Password?

Join Us

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.