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“The thing is, winning covers up a lot of sins.”

-Former Chicago Bull BJ Armstrong, when asked why Phil Jackson was such a great coach

With that interview response, BJ Armstrong became one of my favorite NBA players of all time.  The honesty, the subtlety, and the guts that it took to say that… I loved it.  Phil Jackson had been lionized for years after winning so many titles with the Bulls, and later the Lakers.  And here was a bit player from those Bulls teams basically saying, “Phil wasn’t as impressive as you guys made him out to be.”

So, Phil Jackson looked like a genius to outsiders.  But the most important thing, as implied by BJ Armstrong, was that Phil Jackson had coached a man named Michael Jordan.  Jordan was going to make any coach look good, and a coach with Jordan on his team could do things that would lead other teams (and coaches) to ruin.

Phil continued that particular brand of wisdom in later years, by agreeing to coach the Lakers, who had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.  We never saw Phil take a terrible team and try to rescue it.  Maybe Phil truly was wise, and understood his own good fortune better than the media did.

What does this has to do with BI?  “Winning covers up a lot of sins.”  During boom years, such as the mid to late 90’s and the mid 2000’s, everyone made money.  Financial advisers all looked like geniuses during those years, no matter what stocks/funds they picked.  Real estate investors were whiz kids.  And consumer spending was so hot, you didn’t have to run a tight ship in order to make money.  A rising tide raises all boats.

When we were planning the feature set for Excel 2007, I remember us looking at IT spending trends during the dot-com bust.  Overall IT spend was sharply down.  And all segments of that spending were down as well.  Except BI.  BI spending was up.

The same thing is happening now, and for the same reasons.  Winning covers up a lot of sins.  And adversity demands efficiency.  Effective BI investments are orders of magnitude cheaper than making bad business decisions.

As a software pro, there’s no place I’d rather be than business intelligence.


Rob Collie

One of the founding engineers behind Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, and creator of the world’s first cloud Power Pivot service, Rob is one of the foremost authorities on self-service business intelligence and next-generation spreadsheet technology.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. phew a NBA analogy with BI .. I think your right, BI is the place to be at this moment in time.

    But keep away from Phil Jackson 🙂 He’s my coaching hero being a basketball coach myself (ok to some 16 year olds..) i really like what he’s doing, using the positive side of the human being and sharing the ball equally. Not coach Knight like yelling. Ok he’s just smart to join only successful clubs (early years of the bulls were hardly successful) but wouldn’t you? I love the way all his teams are playing always fun to watch!

    Ok back to BI 🙂

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