We've had a lot of discussion about the evils of spreadmarts and the trouble with spreadsheet hell. If you're not familiar with the phenomenon, it goes as follows. Last quarter, the regional sales manager challenged her store managers to have a great Q3. She promised a reward for the store manager with highest quarterly sales. At the next quarterly meeting, Manager A says, "Here's my spreadsheet. As you can see, my store had the highest quarterly sales." Manager B says, "No, wait; that's total sales. But I have the smallest store. As you can see from my spreadsheet, I had the highest sales per square foot." Manager C says, "Wait. As my spreadsheet shows, you need to net out returns. When you do that, I have the highest sales per square foot." Finally Manager D says, "Ah, but my store uses 45 square feet for that branded credit card booth. When you take that out, I have the highest quarterly sales."

This happens all the time in real businesses. But the spreadsheet, while very visible, is not the problem. The real problem is an imbalance between formal and informal business intelligence (BI). So that begs the obvious question, what is formal BI and what is informal BI?

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