Beware the Either/Or False Dichotomy.

A universe with two mutually exclusive entities is a dichotomy. Nature is full of dichotomies. So is humor—"there are two kinds of people..."

Someone recently posted a poll on LinkedIn with this question: "Was your BI choice a Business or Technical decision?"

From a business intelligence perspective, this question is problematic. It's premise is that there are only two choices-Business and Technical, and that they're mutually exclusive. It's a dichotomy. It's also a false dichotomy.

Asking this question a classic example of preemptive framing - structuring a question in a form that forces responses into a set that's narrower than the actual domain contains.

In any given situation, it's likely that there are Business and Technical components, but it's almost never, nor should it be, an either/or situation. Both realms have an interest in and influence upon the decision, and there are other forces at play.

As a general principle, BI is properly concerned with inquiring into the nature of data, discovering interesting facts and patterns—correlations between elements, and seeking to reveal their causes.

In order to do this, one must approach the situation with an open mind, knowledgeable enough to be able to identify business entities and their relationships, flexible enough to adapt to the situation at hand, and open enough to be able to recognize novel and unexpected things.

The either/or false dichotomy is a simple manifestation of an approach to BI that's inherently flawed, one that seeks to predefine the problem domain into a structure that isn't appropriate.

If you encounter someone who claims to be a BI professional and presents you with an either/or choice like this, or even a longer list of OR choices, you can be fairly confident that, although they might have some tool skills, they're lacking an essential ingredient and you should look for someone else.