Everyone's heard the centuries-old tale of the three blind men and the elephant. Asked to describe the animal before them, they each feel a different body part and variously declare the beast to be a rope, a tree and a fan. Their ignorance - through lack of a complete view - makes them argumentative.
Fast-forward a couple of millennia and apply this story to data. Most of it ends up in silos, loosely owned by different lines of business. People struggle to make sense of it, groping their way blindly and only touching a small part of it, resulting in a narrow or fragmented understanding. Without the ability to explore multiple different perspectives at the same time, most of the meaningful relationships within the data remain hidden from view. And when people can't see the whole picture, opportunities for debate and delay are rife.
This highlights the importance of what is often referred to as a "single version of the truth". Originally, SVOT was a technical concept used to describe the ideal of having one vast, centralised database that stores all of an organisation's data in a consistent way. In practice, as any frazzled IT architect will tell you, very few companies' legacy systems come anywhere close to that vision of Nirvana.
That's where business intelligence tools like SAP Crystal Solutions come in. Rather than trying to reorganise and re-engineer the underlying data repositories, applications like Crystal Reports simplify access to data, no matter where it's scattered across the company. Ordinary, non-technical business users don't have to be distracted by the mechanics of connecting to various different data sources and can instead focus on how to interpret the steaming pile of elephant dung that is last quarter's sales performance.
Sound familiar? Post a comment on this blog to share your experiences of what happens when you aren't fully in the picture.