What’s that tool? It’s a macguffin, sir

When, when will someone write a novel about business intelligence? I can see it now. Amazon will try to sell me From Here to Analysis, Data in the Afternoon, and Lolita, DBA.

But titles are easy. Writing the novel might be tough, since the author would have to run on sheer imagination. There’s no apparent intrigue. The BI crowd plays it safe. Forget sex. The BI crowd works too hard. Forget guns. The BI crowd shoots only bullet points.

In fact, the best strategy might be Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite: the macguffin. It’s a plot element, often ephemeral, that drives the main characters to do what they do regardless of the macguffin’s value. As the plot moves along, the macguffin fades into the background.

In BI, the most common mcguffin is technology — while the real issue is effective use of data in business decisions.

Remember “Psycho”? The woman steals money from her boss and flees. Her boss is sure to follow. We’re looking off in that direction when out of nowhere comes the shower scene. Holy crap! We never saw that one coming!

Hitchcock’s aim was fear, but McGuffins have other uses, too. In business intelligence, the macguffin creates comfort. In the BI plot, the shower scene is instead endless talk about technology, data quality, data this and data that. All the time, lurking in the culture, unexamined and feared, is classic business dysfunction. But leadership can’t fix it, so they go shopping.

What’s a novelist to do? Use it all. Study up on the technology for a week and interview people on the front lines. Then drape BI technology over a standard plot set in an enterprise.

Business people buy BI tools, and so they’ll buy the BI thriller.

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