Big BI, meet Big Ag

Swap out a few terms in a recent New York Times story about farmers’ attempt to split California, and you might see the IT vs. business saga.

A quote halfway through caught my eye: “The agricultural industry is in this mode that says, ‘You will eat what’s put in front of you,’ and that’s a very condescending view of consumers and eaters. If customers are changing their preferences, the industry needs to change its ways.” Earlier in the story, an old farmer complains, “Those Hollywood types don’t have any idea what’s going on out here on the farms.”

Big Agriculture — affectionately shortened to Big Ag — seems analogous to the enigmatic Big BI. We can map food shoppers to business users, and back again.

The vast, quietly desperate majority settle for pre-packaged solutions, whether frozen dinners or standard reports. Most see little reason to change, or else they hate it all but see no way out. Locally grown produce? New ways of looking at the data? Yeah, right.

Some turn to alternatives like LucidEra, DataSelf and Birst, the on-demand chefs. They’re for people with food in the kitchen, of any origin, who don’t know what to do with it all or don’t have time.

Then we have the do-it-yourselfers. Those who insist they “need nothing fancy” prefer Excel, perhaps with the Veg-O-Matic add-in for slicing and dicing.

What to some food users is “fancy” is to others a cause to celebrate, and tools like Tableau Desktop and Lyza stay as close as the chef’s knife.

Tableau users are the Alice Waters of the data crowd: foraging local and remote sources, tasting, combining and trying out new concepts every day on friends in the kitchen and often at dinner parties. To them, data’s more than food, it’s the fire, too.

Lyza users also forage for eventual presentation, but at heart they may be more like old-time homesteaders. They thrash, mill and grind to extract the best they can get. They’ll wallow in muddy data if it means finding something better there. They’d rather do that than let someone else do it for them.

Meanwhile, back at Big Ag, the old farmer’s been out at shopping malls testing support for his initiative to split the state in two. He says, “I’m an old hound dog. If I’m barking up a tree, I want to know how many squirrels are up there.” I think he’s barking at data, not food.

2 Responses to Big BI, meet Big Ag

  1. Ted,
    Again with the food analogies. You know I think it is perfect and appropriate. This post is one to pass around widely, and I will do so. Are you buds with Alice Waters? Did you participate in the Victory Garden thingie in SF? Time to go slice and dice and cook up some tasty intelligence that nourishes without the empty calories or fat. That’s definitely what our clients expect. They have no time for working it off at the gym — why consume the pasty stuff that’s bad for you when there it’s so plausible today to cook a simply beautiful and healthful home grown meal?

    MANY BLESSINGS!
    Peace and All Good!
    Michael W Cristiani
    Market Intelligence Group, LLC

Leave a reply

Other recent posts

End of one-size-fits-all data stories

This appeared originally on the TDWI site in September behind a paywall. It’s still there, but today they’ve had the 90 days of exclusive use that I agreed to. Survey after survey reveals that about 80 percent of business users don’t use data analysis—despite all the marketing and “easy to use” tools. As if in… Continue Reading

Qlik finally set to leapfrog Tableau?

Who’s your rival? I carelessly asked a Qlik person at the company’s annual analyst reception Monday night in Miami if she hadn’t once worked for Tableau. Her revulsion was immediate. “No! Never!,” she said. We smiled. There was so much more to talk about. For one thing, how will private equity change things? Qlik wasn’t… Continue Reading

Five Tips for Better Data Stories

Originally published on September 22, 2015 in BI This Week, a TDWI publication. A “data story” sounds like such a great idea. You just mix data with storytelling and you’re done — except that most data storytellers get one thing wrong: they drown out the story with data. Such storytellers, I believe, assume that audiences… Continue Reading

Bohemian Grove a la BI

The Bohemian Grove of the BI industry convenes for the fifteenth time in just three weeks. Naturally, you ask the obvious question: Are you serious? The Grove? A summit? The answer begins with a fond recollection of the Grove. If you’ve never attended the Bohemian Grove yourself — I haven’t, though I live in the… Continue Reading