The other night I was at home listening to music and a thought occurred to me. The way I discover new music today is so different—and so much more satisfying!— from the way I discovered music 10-15 years ago. Similarly, the way people explore and interrogate data at work for insights and decision support is very different—and much more satisfying—from the way it was done in the past.

Today, music discovery is mobile, instant, social, and app-driven

How I discovered music in the pastHow I discover music today
Influence of friendsI would hear new music I liked while at a friend’s house or riding in their car. I’d write down the name of the band so I could look for the compact disc in a record store at a later time.My friends frequently post YouTube videos of music they like on Facebook. My friend David has particularly good taste; I always check out what he recommends. I can also follow bands on Facebook and connect with my friends via Ping, which is iTunes’ social network.
Discovering music in the carI listened to whatever was broadcast on the few channels I received on FM radio. If I liked a song, I hoped the DJ would say the name of the band so I could write it down. If the DJ didn’t announce it, I had to wait until I heard the song again.I listen to satellite radio, with hundreds of music channels to choose from. When I hear a song I want to buy, I hold my iPhone up in the air and click the big orange button on the SoundHound app. The software recognizes the song and stores metadata about it for me.
Discovering music in the storeI would head to Tower Records—now defunct, like so many other record stores. I’d pick up the CD I’d heard at my friend’s place, and wander through the pop and rock aisles, where CDs were arranged in alphabetical order. I would browse through racks of CDs to see if any of my favorite bands had new albums out. Pretty much the only way to explore music by bands I’d never heard of was to stand at a station where I could don a set of well-worn headphones and sample tunes from a half dozen CDs the record store was promoting.My music store is now online. I go into iTunes to buy a few songs I had stored in my SoundHound list. Searching is easy. If I want to find Coldplay’s new song, for example, I can find it by typing the words “Coldplay” and “waterfall” into a search box. The song “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” shows up in a list alongside other songs in that album, and other songs by Coldplay. I can click around, listening and exploring. By clicking on links, I can pursue a trail of tunes, discovering songs I like. Exploring a compilation or soundtrack, for example, takes me to artists I had never heard of before. I wander through the music, exploring and making discoveries. Also, on the home page of the iTunes store, I can see recommendations iTunes has specifically for me based on my purchase history. There’s also iTunes Genius, which creates playlists for me and introduces me to music I might like but haven’t already purchased.
Purchasing musicEven if I liked just one or two songs on a CD, I had to purchase the entire album.I buy individual songs based on my tastes and preferences, and based on personalized recommendations from my friends and iTunes. I can purchase songs from iTunes through SoundHound, right on my iPhone. Or I can wait until I’ve collected a handful of songs in my SoundHound history and then sit down with my laptop for an evening of musical exploration.
Playing musicI listened to one album at a time or—when I got a fancy 6-CD player, I could mix and match songs from 6 CDs and play them in random order. Or I could burn mix CDs—hard-coded collections of a dozen or songs.I can play songs by any artist in any order I like. I can easily organize my music any way I want. I can create playlists as large or small as I want, based on mood, memory, group of artists, or any other criteria.

 

Likewise, Business Discovery is mobile, instant, social, and app-driven

A similar change has taken place in the workplace, as people use Business Discovery platforms to derive insights and inform decisions. Traditional BI solutions give users access to lots of data—just as traditional, physical record stores gave shoppers access to lots of music. But how does the user explore all that data, to discover meaningful relationships and associations, and pursue their own path to insight? With traditional BI solutions, users can explore pre-determined drill paths (like the alphabetically-arranged CDs on shelves ordered by genre) and preconfigured queries (like the headset in the store, through which I could sample the music from a half-dozen new CDs).

In contrast, with Business Discovery platforms, users can search and explore all the relevant data at their disposal (like exploring all the music in the entire iTunes store). They can access their dashboards, analytics, and reports from anywhere, with their mobile device. They can click around in the application, see clearly what data sets are related and unrelated, and quickly ask and answer their business questions (like quickly finding new music I like, buying it, adding it to a playlist, and immediately beginning to enjoy it). They can draw others into the discussion, and share their insights and perspectives with a larger group.

I shared a draft of this blog post with Elif Tutuk, technical advisor, and she had a great perspective to share: “Business intelligence should not be only about the charts, visualization, numbers, reports etc. It should be a user experience where business users get information even before they search. Imagine a world in which BI tools give users multiple perspectives on information displayed on charts, as users interact with the chart. Or, as BI gets more social, imagine a world where BI tools display to users the top 10 charts viewed by others when they do a search.” The future of BI is exciting!