Walk & Talk Straight Practitioners

Stephen Few and Nigel Pendse, are examples of business experts, each with quite distinctly different styles and modes of working. Both call it as they see it without fear or favor .

New Blog PhotoThey can do so because they do the ground work and run their business in a way they can claim that right.

Pendse, is widely known and respected by all in the performance management business community that he serves on all continents,

Stephen Few, is a US based consulting specialist and author. His style is no nonsense to the point and he calls a  spade a spade.

Something each wrote recently under a clever headlines got my attention.

News Flash: BI Discovers the Obvious

In his no holds bared post, Few bravely confronts "emperors new clothes" tactics in a journalist’s writings about new release software. Exposing such things is risky, when a  livelihood may be otherwise also dependant, so you have to be good as you leave yourself wide open to criticism.

"When a vendor or a consultant has nothing new to offer but is desperate to win clients, it is tempting to claim a new discovery by shrouding the obvious and familiar in new terminology.

What lead Few’s to say this was journalistic rhetoric in a report on research by software vendor Lyzasoft who to hype up support of their a product claim data analysts were a new breed of BI thinkers.

Similar reporting on Microsoft’s Gemini project by the same  writer, is also targeted by Few, who castigates his dubious practice of inferring notable people lend credible support.   I love the brass he shows making this entertaining statement.

No attempt has been made at disguise. Come on Lyzasoft and Microsoft, don’t insult the intelligence of the business intelligence community by gluing a carrot on the head of a goat and calling it a unicorn. That only works at carnivals for children and drunks.

You may need to read that twice to be sure the comma is correctly placed. That aside, one risk he takes is his critics may say that vendors would be very pleased someone like Few, being widely read, took the bait and chastised them this way. And especially a startup being mentioned in the same breath as the omnipresent Microsoft.

As a practitioner my self, I am equally critical when I see so called new tools being branded as life changing and then serve up just a different style mousetrap that does little more than catch the same mouse. I also get tired of reading hollow write-ups and posts full of emotive hooks and say nothing. At least Few enjoys venting his  frustration  using his entertaining style and a demonstrated presence that shows he knows his stuff.

In fairness I checked a bit more and found Lysasoft, has what looks like could have useful product for graphical presentations to pull diversely sourced data together. After I read a few reviews I went for the carrot, being the free demo download. If I may continue to enjoy and revert to Few’s law, when I got it installed I saw the body had the beginnings of a good looking goat. But being a start-up,  it was clear it still has no head.

Paying a way to get even an annoying marketing drip going, by finding someone to quote ambiguous findings of new unicorn discoveries for people gossip about, it seems still works. That gets the punters to take a bite out of the apple. A very old trick to get low hangers picked off quickly and using gullible new buyers to spread the word. But it sucks like a pump as critical smart  people who spot it and share are equally sucked in as they pass on the message.

"Stephen Few" as a specialist in information visualization, heads up his Now You See It - Front Cover consulting firm"Perceptual Edge". With a foot in both camps as a critic as well he has to be vey good to survive too.  As part of his business he runs a regular blog that serves as an excellent resource with examples and case studies. He also has a new book "Now You See IT" which quickly focuses readers  on ideas principles and techniques for analyzing information graphically. He says It differs from earlier books like "Show me the numbers"  and "Information Dashboard Design" that teach how to communicate information graphically.

I feel sure he would freely admit when he has no idea about the difference between a bar of soap and a Santa Barbara toilet brush.  But judging by what he gives away for free, he knows much more on how to use Business Intelligence than most  It may be worth a call to him for advice if you are looking to implement something soon. I suggest you add him to your RSS Feed and read his post


Nigel Pendse is a highly regarded veteran and independent specialist who researches analytical software for a living. In the league of imagepushing giants like Gartner and totally alien to compromise, as a policy he tells me he does not comment on random press and hype.

On the other hand he is not unwilling to say good things about software as he also spots any weaknesses too. You may even find him from time to time being interviewed or participating in a vendor webcast. He is also a sought after speaker

To balance the point made by the Unicorn writers he has an excellent summary and some views on Microsoft’s Gemini project headed

Project Gemini — Microsoft’s Brilliant OLAP Trojan Horse

This supplementing commentary on Pendse’s The  OLAP  Report site is well worth a read. Like Few, but perhaps not quite with the same allegory phasing, he takes a similar stand on the unicorn pundits:

Some commentators have described Gemini as an ‘emerging new post-OLAP paradigm’. We do not agree: Gemini is not post-OLAP, it is OLAP. Gemini users will be building in-memory OLAP cubes in an Excel-like environment, just as TM1 users have been doing for many years. Gemini will be much easier to use than Analysis Services, which is certainly very welcome, but it will be doing much the same sort of things as Analysis Services has always done.

Since 1994 when he started his now highly successful subscription based service Nigel has built his business to research and write about software offerings. For this  with his team he does the air miles and leg work to be sure of his facts.

His reports, which we  are widely used in businesses aim to provide total understanding and comparative balance. Being Independent Nigel claims his service. which covers  all major vendors products and more brings out the things that Vendors will  never tell you and highlights those that can deliver the most benefit. You get his reports by subscription on his site.

Curiously as the language has moved on to BI,  using the term OLAP  which it its root, is deeply  embedded  in the name of his firm and his core service.  Of course without OLAP (On-Line Analytical Processing) the  intelligence in Business Intelligence as we know it, would not even exist so it remains enduring as his brand. His Bi-Survey is also annual report he puts out boasting the world’s largest independent survey of Business Intelligence and Performance Management users.

Nigel knows the true value of being honest and remains totally dedicated to ensure he preserves his uncompromised position.  He has a great dislike of random bloggers who without substance shoot from the hip. As a King of his Castle I am sure he would no more consider himself to walk about naked in Regent street as he would allow any old tailor to help win a point with a suit of new clothes.

If you want to know about  BI these practitioners and researchers actually do know and can articulate it.  Few and Pendse, are rare and can tell you or tell you who to call.

One thought on “Walk & Talk Straight Practitioners

Leave a Reply