In a recent post on BeyeNetwork Dan Power made an argument to revisit the concept of an Executive Information System (EIS). This post builds upon that argument and adds to the discussion. For people who don’t know Dan Power, Dan is a professor of IS and one of the few scholars who actively participates in the BI practioners community, trying to bridge the gap between science and practice. As you know, I’m a strong advocate of this kind of interaction, so all the praise to Dan.
Now, let’s get to the article. An argument is made to readdress our attention to executive users and renew the EIS-concept. Next to that, Dan argues that system concepts like EIS, BI, datawarehousing etc. are converging. Here’s my response.
First of all, it’s good to know that EIS’s have been covered widely in scientific research which has resulted in a significant body of knowledge. Next to that, the EIS-concept resembles our current and most common understanding of BI (i.e. management reporting in its broadest sense). BI on the other hand, has hardly been investigated yet; datawarehousing has, but BI has not. So EIS research is our most recent resource of scientific knowledge. Therefore it’s logical to revert to these theories.
I agree with Dan’s final premise that the executive is an important target group and we should focus special attention to them. In order to do so, I’d like to add two refinements. To begin with, we need a clear definition of who the executive is. Is it limited to the CxO’s, is the 2nd management level included etc.? What characterizes his role and his way of working? I personally experienced a situation were the board of directors insisted on receiving a printed version of the monthly performance review. No strong reporting and drill-down capabilities here… So, to target this user group, we need to define it more precisely.
Secondly, we need to separate te executive user (support) from executive process (support). Executive processes resembles processes like strategic decision making, negotiating and monitoring market trends. These kind of processes require different BI-support than tactical management processes for example. Executive usage defines usability requirements (e.g. no training required, PDA-support) whereas the required process support determines required functionality.
Current BI-platforms provide powerful capabilities to both consolidate the different kind of systems and technologies and at the same time provide the targeted support the executive needs.