July 14, 2020
In 2013, I was rewarded Erasmus funding for visiting ESIEE Business School in Paris, France. The representatives of the hosting school looked at my profile, and the courses that I had taught at my home university, The course ‘Business Intelligence and the Global Business Environment” caught their eye. They wanted me to teach a related intensive course at MOTIS master’s program.
Here’s the message that I received on April 22nd, 2013 from Derek Mainwaring, the head of the master’s program:
“I would be VERY interested to have something on BI - we are doing more and more on this "hot topic" and most of my input is currently from technical people so the perspective of a Management/Social Science person would be much appreciated. How you fit that in and what you add is very much up to you, the rest all sounds appropriate so why not build around a BI core and add what you feel you are most comfortable with and is most suitable/relevant/interesting.”
I truly admired Derek’s open-mindedness that gave me freedom to do whatever I found relevant but also forced me to challenge myself to develop a course that would be interesting to both me and the students. At that time, I didn’t feel very comfortable with teaching business intelligence. I had just inherited the course myself and did not know anything about the topic. Instead, my research interest and teaching profile was more related to international entrepreneurship and service innovation. I was particularly interested in service design and design thinking, and considered that it might be something that could bring a unique angle to the business intelligence discussion. That would also be quite different from a traditional, technical business intelligence course, which the students were going to take at a later stage of their program.
However, when I taught the class, I wasn’t sure if there was a real match between the topics. And I was honest about that with the students then and again in 2014 and 2015, when I revisited ESIEE. We were going for an adventure, and about to study something that had not been really established yet. But when I worked with the students on the theme, it clicked immediately. The business intelligence process wasn’t that different from the double diamond of design thinking. Both processes start from understanding the problem/need, proceed to collecting data, creating insight for various solutions, and then going back to the start with new questions emerging along with the process. Of course, there are great differences, too, but instead of excluding the other approach, the processes complement each other.
This course came to my mind in our internal meeting last week, when we talked about the process that our customers go through at DrAI. We needed to understand the process from both our and customer’s perspective. We always start with a problem/need that is sometimes clearly defined and often a bit looser but here we always need a contribution from the customer side. We analyze the textual data that the customer has or even scrape that for them, we clean the data, and run the analysis to create insight and recommendations for required actions. Then it’s the customers’ responsibility to take actions but also tell us new questions that emerge from the problems and opportunities that they encounter. We have already proven with our customers that our analyses can help companies to find new angles to their service development.
But as we discussed with the students in 2013, companies shouldn’t rely solely on textual data. The best results are achieved when insight from different perspectives are combined, new questions are asked, and the companies are ready for constant experimentation. Please, contact me if you work in a company that is using or willing to use business intelligence for strategic insight. We can then run a demo and discuss how we can help you now and in the longer run.