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Month: September 2008

Pissing from the mountaintop at Oracle OpenWorld

Wouldn’t you know it. Follow BI around long enough and you come across family—if only the kind of family you see at funerals and weddings. Oracle finally brought us together again with its sustainability theme at last week’s OpenWorld.

The Sierra Club and I used to be close. My mother led San Francisco Bay Chapter hikes, and much later I found myself deep in greenhood as an editor and organizer. So imagine my surprise, having left “home” so long ago, to witness one-time Sierra Club president Adam Werbach on a panel of environmentalists on a stage. They debated “the economy or the environment?”

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Is BI boring yet?

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations author Clay Shirky says that a technology’s social effects—substitute “business” effects if you want — usually occur just when a technology has become boring. For example, email. It used to be something we talked about: “Do you have email?” “You mean the Internets?” And so on. Nowadays, everybody but John McCain uses it.

So it should be with business intelligence.

In a Harvard video, Shirky tells a story about his parents’ first date. His father borrowed his brother’s car, and on the date his mother ordered the most sophisticated drink on the menu: a root beer float. She actually hated root beer, though, and threw up in the car. Is that story about the internal combustion engine? Well, yes and no. Though those events would not have occurred without it, the boy and girl never even thought about it as events unfolded. It only enabled.

Today the only people who talk about automotive technology are backyard mechanics and industry experts. I’m happy to leave it to them.

Fortunately, we’re getting there in business intelligence with the emergence of things like LucidEra, Tableau and DataSelf. Keep the boredom coming.

SAS finance architect is out to overhaul credit-scoring metrics

Some loan officers used to go by rules of thumb. There were “The Three B’s: never lend to beauticians, bartenders or barbers” and “The Three P’s: never lend to preachers, plumbers or prostitutes.” Now we have an automated system, but it can’t tell an upstanding banker from a down-on-his-luck bartender.

Imagine a high-level banker who leaves his job for a promotion in another state. He’s trusted and respected for the job he did as senior risk manager, reporting to the board of directors, at a 19-branch bank in Atlanta. But for moving and taking that new job, his credit score declines. He’s forced to pay more for his new mortgage.

“That makes no sense,” he says, “It’s completely out of context,” says Clark Abrahams, SAS’s chief financial architect. He’s happily resettled, but he’s out to overhaul the U.S. credit scoring system.

The context the system missed is his ample capacity to repay the loan. He’s automatically put in the same basket as some other applicant who may live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Context is just what he would inject into the U.S. credit-scoring system. He calls the new system he’s promoting model CCAF (SEE-caff), for Comprehensive Credit Assessment Framework.

Today’s distorted scoring began decades ago, he explains. Before we had credit scoring, we had loan officers. They approved or denied loans based on their own experience and judgment. But that was unreliable and often unfair.

So when computers became available, banks developed scoring. Now we’ve swung the other way: proxy metrics, not common sense, rate credit applicants.

It’s a story in progress for TDWI’s BI This Week.