Sometimes it helps talking to a different set of clients to get a reality check. In my world, where all that’s needed is broadband and an airport (I’m exaggerating a little here) it is really helpful to get a new perspective on how our clients are grappling with day-to-day issues.
I recently met with a representative from the education department of a large African city. They wanted to do BI, getting reports on students, classes, teachers, grades, and so on. Now, I learned to be more careful with my advice in places like Africa, as some parts of the infrastructure aren’t comparable with European standards. So I didn’t recommend putting in a big honking data warehouse and some funky BI platform, as I knew (a) the budgets wouldn’t be there, (b) skills would be an issue, and (c) data volumes wouldn’t warrant such an investment.
So I started slowly and asked what kind of reports they’d be expecting to create, what applications and data sources they’d be tapping, how much data, how many potential users, and that sort of thing.
The lady from the education department said they wanted, for example, to get some “teacher reports” and what teachers were more successful, as indicated by better grades of their students. Easy enough I thought. Boy, was I wrong, as there was one problem: There wasn’t any data.
Apparently, the department wanted to know “which teacher is actually physically in the classroom?” or “what topics are those teachers actually discussing in class?”. Kinda different set of problem, compared to the run-of-the-mill inquiries on BI. So I suggested having some employees do regular rounds in the schools to monitor attendance, and create some data by recording their observations in … uh … Excel, at least for the time being. Never thought I would do such a thing. Good reality check.