They say that if you look into a mirror long enough, it will eventually look back. For a writer -- or for a manager in the workplace -- it's in times of exasperating irony and dudgeon when a blog or a sitdown meeting becomes a safety valve and last outlet for credibility by way of confession.

Mea culpa. Just about every year for the last 10 I've written a story about the ways in which business intelligence and data warehousing are important, yet underpenetrated and poorly executed. We've spent and we spend millions on solutions that in many cases find a useful home but never are so fructuous as they were sold to be.

I wrote my last confession about 15 months ago based on a Gartner BI conference. In the wake of the BI/performance management report that just arrived from Ventana Research, I'd run the identical story again wholesale, except that would be pretty unethical.

A lot of known experts in our industry repeat themselves year over year and I won't embarass anyone by naming names. But where repetition becomes scandalous under scrutiny, I've begun for myself to channel the character of the comedian Lewis Black.

If you don't know him, Black's standup comedy is that of a middle-aged man reflecting hysterically, not on how the world has changed, but how it remains agonizingly the same by our inability to change as we're always saying we have (or are about to).

I'd never cast an optimistic person trying to improve things so cynically because I've met and known and respected a lot of you for a long time. Our own readers, (that's you folks), are the biggest segment of those who respond to surveys for Ventana's free and valuable reports. This one is in no way diminished in credible findings. It's more like we know the facts too well.

And this study finds yet again that business intelligence is important, underpenetrated and largely ineffective outside of some mature large organizations. I encourage you to read the Ventana report and learn from it, because it says a lot more than the summary finding.

But what does it mean to say once more, 'Boy, we are interested and we need to do a better job,' so many times over? Ventana's CEO Mark Smith was identically serious and frustrated at this phenomenon as I was, but we both saw the irony.

"We're at the end of the 30-year mission to learn how to do this mission-critical stuff and yet we're not," he told me. "And now we're going to reinvest because technology keeps changing and by the time we figure it out, dammit, the technology we bought is outdated."

That was telling, because lately I've been feeling that mainline BI and data warehousing have been fading in the wake of the big acquisitions and the emergence of social CRM and new fads -- and we never got BI right in the first place.

And, we also know -- absolutely -- that the original use case is important. My site search of topics pinged at information-management.com proves that thousands of people are still most interested in the very basics of BI, data warehousing and analytics!

I think this fact says loads more about IT's budget and direction than it does about the business mission at hand. When I mentioned the disconnect to my friend, it brought forth the quote, possibly the quote of the year from Mark and I'll let it settle on you as it did on me:

"There's not a right or wrong," Mark said. "Big and midsized companies are very dysfunctional, like families are, and the question of the moment is, 'whom do you want to please?"

I can't say it better than that. Irony and fate are the same thing from different angles. You can add your comments and I'll add a thought or two from my chat with Mark about why we are (or are not) going where we think we are next time.

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