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Newton's Laws of Motion and its relevance to Business Intelligence (BI)


Hi there! If you are perplexed by the title of this blog article, I wouldn't be surprised. I am sure you would be muttering under your breath "What on earth have Newton’s Laws of Motion got to do with Business Intelligence (BI)?"

Before I quench your curiosity to know more, let me for the benefit of everyone state here the three Laws of Motion as discovered by Sir Isaac Newton.

Law I: (1)

Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.

Law II: (1)

The acceleration of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force F and inversely proportional to the mass, i.e., F = ma.

Law III: (1)

To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.


BI & Newton's First Law:

Newton's first law essentially talks about the "Law of Inertia". Now think of the inertia that you typically encounter when you embark on any BI initiative. A BI Initiative calls for lot of changes in the mindset of an organization. An organization may be currently operating as an amalgamation of different silos. But to successfully spearhead and implement a BI initiative the various functions need to collaborate cross-functionally and that definitely needs a cultural change. Only then can the BI system be successful in delivering the right information to the right people at the right time for taking the right decisions.

A cultural change is one of the toughest changes to bring about in an organization. For this change to happen the top brass of the organization has to educate their employees about the significance of the BI initiative and push the adoption of BI top down so that the change percolates and pervades to every part of the organization. To re-state the Newton's First Law in the context of BI:

"Every organization persists in its present state of intuitive decision making unless it is compelled to culturally change its state to fact-based decision making by the force of enterprise-wide adoption necessitated by the management."


BI & Newton's Second Law:

Let me re-state Newton's Second Law to make it relevant for BI.

"The acceleration of the BI initiative is directly proportional to the force applied by the management towards BI adoption."

Or in other words, to make the BI initiative successful a critical mass of adoption needs to be reached. This can be achieved by developing rapid BI prototypes and showcasing the benefits of the BI system through these prototypes. By creating small wins, you can generate a mass of BI evangelists who will accelerate the successful adoption of BI throughout the enterprise.


BI & Newton's Third Law:

Newton's third law talks about action and reaction. In BI terms, this means that the success and growth of your business is dependent on the quality of your decisions. These decisions in turn depend on the quality of information available at any given point in time. For information to be of high quality, the raw material i.e. the data needs to be of very high quality.

So as we can see here, a cascading effect of Newton's third law is self-evident.

Action: Quality Data                         =>          Reaction: Quality Information

Action: Quality Information         =>           Reaction: Quality Decisions

Action: Quality Decisions              =>           Reaction: Competitive advantage and success in business


Now, don’t you think we are all greatly indebted to this great genius Sir Isaac Newton for his amazing contribution to the world? You bet!



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Comment by Dr Vadlamani Ravi on September 21, 2011 at 1:09am

Excellent analogy ! At first, I was intrigued by the title. But after going through the post, I was convinced by the similarity drawn between the Newton's laws and BI.

- Dr Ravi Vadlamani

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