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Ronald Damhof

I have been a BI/DW practitioner for more than 15 years. In the last few years, I have become increasingly annoyed - even frustrated - by the lack of (scientific) rigor in the field of data warehousing and business intelligence. It is not uncommon for the knowledge worker to be disillusioned by the promise of business intelligence and data warehousing because vendors and consulting organizations create their "own" frameworks, definitions, super-duper tools etc.

What the field needs is more connectedness (grounding and objectivity) to the scientific community. The scientific community needs to realize the importance of increasing their level of relevance to the practice of technology.

For the next few years, I have decided to attempt to build a solid bridge between science and technology practitioners. As a dissertation student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, I hope to discover ways to accomplish this. With this blog I hope to share some of the things I learn in my search and begin discussions on this topic within the international community.

Your feedback is important to me. Please let me know what you think. My email address is

About the author >

Ronald Damhof is an information management practitioner with more than 15 years of international experience in the field.

His areas of focus include:

  1. Data management, including data quality, data governance and data warehousing;
  2. Enterprise architectural principles;
  3. Exploiting data to its maximum potential for decision support.
Ronald is an Information Quality Certified Professional (International Association for Information and Data Quality one of the first 20 to pass this prestigious exam), Certified Data Vault Grandmaster (only person in the world to have this level of certification), and a Certified Scrum Master. He is a strong advocate of agile and lean principles and practices (e.g., Scrum). You can reach him at +31 6 269 671 84, through his website at or via email at

In 1986 Daft and Lengel published an article in Management Science:


A very interesting article that combines the processing of information by decision makers, the use of structural mechanisms and organizational design. The latter one - organizational design - I will not discuss thoroughly in this blog. Just remember that the choice of structural mechanism to overcome uncertainty/equivocality will impact the organizational design.

Processing of information by decision makers;

Managers, in general, process information to reduce uncertaincy and to
reduce equivocality. I love that word - Equivocality - but that is
probably because I am not native speaking English. Equivocality is an
ambiguity with information That is to say; there are multiple
interpretations about some organisational situation/problem.

Structural Mechanisms;

It is best to explain this by means of the figure.

Daft and Lengel.png
The above figure is pretty much self explaining; when equivocality increases you will need more 'rich' communication mechanisms.

Let's try to position Business Intelligence as one of the mechnanisms to reduce uncertainty/equivocality. For now- in this day and age- Business Intelligence is primarily used for explicit information (crunching the numbers). So I would suggest to position Business Intelligence somewhere in the realm of formal information system, special reports and maybe planning.

In my opinion and without much nuance (it will certainly depend on the type of organization), strategic decision making should be characterized as a high level of equivocality.  Business Intelligence will only support Strategic Management, up to a certain level. But suffice it to say; it will be limited. However, with tactical and especially operational management, the information processing profile will change from equivocality to uncertainty. And that's where Business Intelligence flourishes. Operational control will benefit hugely from Business Intelligence if this model of Daft and Lengel is used.

And suprise suprise.....Operational Business Intelligence seems to find it's place. Aint it cool that a model - made by Daft and Level - from 1986 is explaining two things (?):
- Why BI never really got a footprint in the strategic management area
- Why BI is likely to prosper in tactical and (even more) operational management

But let's look ahead. Business Intelligence seems to become more 'richer' in terms of analytic capabilities (e.g text analytics), sophistiated forecasting and planning, model driven support systems, collaboration and knowledge discovery. In other words; Business Intelligence is more and more delivering to its promise made by Luhn in 1958. In terms of Daft and Lengel; Business Intelligence is shifting more in the area of Equivocality, making it more usefull for strategic decision makers.

Posted June 25, 2009 2:16 AM
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