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Q&A with Howard Dresner, part II: The business performance management revolution

In a follow-up interview, Howard Dresner -- coiner of the term "business intelligence" -- talks about so-called information democracy and business performance management.

Howard Dresner invented the term "business intelligence" in 1989. In 1992, Dresner joined Gartner Inc., where he built up the analyst firm's BI practice and made strides toward what he termed "information democracy." Dresner currently serves as the chief strategy officer at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hyperion Solutions, a BI and performance management vendor.

Last month, interviewed Dresner about business intelligence trends. We followed up with Dresner at the recent Hyperion Solutions 2006 user conference, this time to discuss information democracy and the business performance management revolution.

You often refer to "information democracy." What is that? And how is "the BPM [business performance management] revolution" involved?
The BPM revolution leads to information democracy. You have to struggle first, just like the American Revolution. But fundamentally, the premise of information democracy is to deliver actionable insight. It is not just information. People don't want just information. They want answers and they want insights.

Howard Dresner, chief strategy officer, Hyperion
Howard Dresner, chief strategy officer, Hyperion

What ends up happening in many organizations today is that we spend so much time trying to figure out what happened. It's like a CEO asking, "How are we doing?" No one knows. Five people can scramble around and come back with five answers. And they are not the same -- in fact, they are contradictory.

So, that is where we have been. Information democracy is all about alignment, and it's about insight -- getting everybody on the same page. Is the move toward BPM organic growth for BI? Or is it a corrective reaction to how BI has been adopted across the enterprise?
Well, BPM is the business people starting to say, "Hey, this isn't right." It's a backlash against the whole tools and technological mind-set that we have had for the last 20 years.

BPM is very much a business initiative in partnership with IT. BPM is a reaction to the lack of value that has been derived by the tools and technology approach. The business has to lead it. What are the forces resisting the revolution? Who are the enemies?
It is all of us. That is why I quote Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." All of those behaviors -- inertia, fear and self-interest -- exist in all of us.

The easiest one to deal with is inertia, and that is the biggest bubble of users. They might say, "I know and I really don't like it, it doesn't work well. But change is so much harder, so I will just struggle with it." Those guys you can deal with, they are relatively straightforward and will tell you where things stand.

Other people are afraid and they don't want to tell you that they are afraid. So they will come up with lots of reasons for not doing it [BPM]. "I can't do it because we don't have the budget for that. I can't do that because we don't have the resources." You have to unmask all the issues and eventually they will do it.

Also, people that are fearful, it's amazing how aligned they become with a tool. "I've been using this tool, this query, analytical, reporting tool for the last 10 years. I know it really well." They start to think, "That's why I really have this job." When you come in and say that you want to introduce something new, you are threatening them, them personally, their family, their livelihood.

For more on BPM
 Read our first sit down with 'BI's founding father'  

Learn more about the BPM revolution

So you have to allay their fears. Say, "Hey, you have value here because you are a good worker, know the business, the customer, the products, etc."

The one that is really dangerous, the insidious self-interest, those are the guys that don't want management to know what is going on; they would be out of a job, and with good reason. They need to be managed out of an organization. What is the time frame for the BPM revolution? When will we see widespread adoption?
The revolution is actually under way already. I had a meeting a couple of months ago with the president of Global Hyatt, the president of Hyatt International, the CIO, the CMO and the CFO, just to listen to their plans around BPM. And these guys, they have it, they understand it and they are deploying it, all the way out to all their properties. They are doing consolidation, planning and business intelligence. They know that they can't be the biggest or the best in the hospitality industry without BPM.

They are not even public, but yet they want to go public. So they are already assuring that they are SOX [Sarbanes Oxley] compliant. Hyperion is their strategic vendor for doing it.

There are a lot of companies out there like that. There are a lot of revolutionaries, and it is driven by business in partnership with IT. That's how it has to happen. Is there a rallying cry for the BPM revolution?
What we like to tell people is, actionable insight is a right. We are entitled to it. But it's not free. You've got to fight for it. Insight isn't free.

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