Rob Meredith corrected my post on BI where I accused him of being Curt Monash rather than part of the Monash University team down under! He made a couple of great comments too. While I loved his distinction around business intelligence (being about collecting information not necessarily making better decisions), I do have to take issue with something he said:
No system can make decisions as well as an informed, competent human decision-maker.
In fact I think the data is pretty compelling. Read Super Crunchers or Competing on Analytics (or indeed Smart (Enough) Systems) and plenty of stories can be found where the exact opposite is true. Credit scores do better than loan officers, data mining can do better than doctors, an equation does better than wine experts and on and on. This was the topic of a post in the context of marketing this week also – Paul Barsch had an interesting post titled Glorifying The Gut.
I would agree that there are MANY decisions where Rob’s statement is true but it is clearly not true where there is a lot of relevant historical data that can be used or where the decision is subject to human errors of judgment. I would also point out that it is not relevant for many decisions – there is no-one to make a decision when you interact with a kiosk or ATM or website and no time for a human decision in many real-time transactions. Another part of Rob’s comment did resonate however:
There’s also ethical issues associated with accountability and moral responsibility for individual decisions if no human was involved.
Rightly or wrongly people don’t like the idea of machines taking decisions. Anyone applying decision management needs to remember that.