Business Intelligence and Computer-Supported Reasoning
This paper examines the methodologies of Business Intelligence (BI) and Computer- Supported Reasoning (CSR). They differ, but both generate information for the user’s reasoning. That fact suggests this inquiry into whether software developers can market a line of CSR products and also incorporate some of the CSR patents’ functionalities in BI products.
In BI the objects to be processed by a computer are numeric, composed of any number of digits. They are devoid of both unique identity and meaning, incapable individually of providing information. When a quantity of such objects are aggregated, the collective is then given an alphanumeric category identifier. An analogy is a bucket full of sand. The sand can be “processed”, i.e. the weight of the bucket minus the weight of the bucket constitutes information, but about that particular bucket, not about any individual grain of sand it contains. Similarly, in BI algorithms are created to process the numerics, and the result is information about a particular category. That categorical information is then displayed as a static group of forms the user examines, using his/her unique reasoning to make decisions.
Turning now to CSR, the displayed group of forms is not static. The objects processed by the computer are text data objects. Each object has a unique user-assigned alphanumeric identifier and is suffused with meaning. It consists of parameter names and values, both chosen by the person who created the text data object. The CSR user’s reasoning is engaged from the beginning and throughout the process. From a data source much smaller than a BI database, the user selects a workable quantity with desired parametric values. In basic CSR, the output is a data table which the user manipulates to make decisions. In more advanced versions of CSR a text data object can relate to an external object. That obvious language problem led to the use in CSR of the term “item” to describe a parametric text data object. Thus a set of CSR items may generate for decision-making a data table, a display of objects, or both.
A CSR user rearranges what is displayed in order to judge the merit of different relationships. An analogy is a detective, as depicted on TV or in a movie, posting in a wall a set of photos, maps, statements, or other pieces of evidence. Studying them can lead to different arrangements, as well as to generation of the need for another piece of evidence. That is what raises the question of possible complementarity between BI and CSR. In CSR, however, the evidence would be displayed and examined on large interactive digital screens.
The group of forms on a BI user’s portal are designed to inform that person about overall organization performance, so reasoning can determine if management actions should be taken. Here is where complementarity appears possible. Envision a BI portal displaying a chart depicting a decrease of revenue from sales of a particular device over a period of time. Evidently the chart is generated and displayed by processing data reported at different times, from a number of regions, about revenue from sales of several models of the device. Think back now to the sand bucket analogy. Envision a series of named buckets (w), filled at different dates (x). The buckets were filled by numbered scoops (y) holding different quantities of sand, and held by different people (z). Assume y denotes the various models of the device, and each z is a different region. They—w, x, y, and z—are parameters with values, a quantity of which comprise, in CSR language, the dataset of a text data object. And advanced CSR applications can, from such a dataset, generate and display forms. The chart on the BI portal cited earlier is such a form. Perhaps clicking it could place it in a CSR mode of operation. Admittedly speculative, this possibility is based on the truth that both modes of operation are using the same body of raw data.
The nature of data processed by BI and CSR applications has been reviewed, the methodologies of that processing have been examined, and comparison of the displays of their generated information suggests the possibility of forms on a BI display being electively expressed as CSR items, enabling the user’s reasoning to do much more than react to the static portal display. CSR then adds value to BI processes through dynamic intuitive display options created by the user.
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