Performance AnalyticS THOUGHT LEADERS

“The more I learn, the less I know.” I’ve said that a thousand times. As a student of Analytics, I am drawn to continue learning from the thought leaders in related fields. I’m sure the list will continue to grow. In no particular order, here are links to the people I have and am learning from.

When I was drawn into the EIS (i.e., executive information systems) business in 1990, the only EIS vendors were Information Resources, Information Builders, and Pilot Software. The only Thought Leader was Ralph Kimball. I read his book(s), attended his courses and through the process, became a student of Mr. Kimball’s teachings and an evangelist for the power of reporting and analytics. Mr. Kimball was the first and most influential person in my Analytics career.

Ralph Kimball founded the Kimball Group. Since the mid-1980s, he has been the DW/BI industry’s thought leader on the dimensional approach and trained more than 20,000 students. Prior to working at Metaphor and founding Red Brick Systems, Ralph co-invented the first commercially-available workstation with a graphical user interface at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Ralph has his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.


Tom Davenport – Tom has been one of my Analytics Heroes for many years, and continues to explore how Analytics can help organizations achieve sustained high performance.

Tom is a world-renowned thought-leader who has helped hundreds of companies revitalize their management practices. He combines his interests in research, teaching, and business management as the President’s Distinguished Professor in Management and Information Technology at Babson College. He has also taught at the Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, and the University of Texas at Austin and has directed research centers at Accenture, McKinsey & Company, Ernst & Young, and CSC. He is also a Senior Advisor to Deloitte Analytics. Tom earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in social science.


Stephen Few – Steve is my other Analytics Hero that I have learned a lot from.  I’ve read all of his books, completed all of his courses and have enjoyed continuing to learn from his Blog.  Steve continues to explore Visual Analytics in a wonderfully direct manner, without giving any preference or consideration for any vendor products, and many times, identify how vendors products and marketing illustrations stray far from best practice.

With 30 years of experience as an innovator, consultant, and educator in the fields of business intelligence and information design, Stephen is now a leading expert in data visualization for sensemaking and communication.


Edward Tufte – Years ago, I was first introduced to Visual Analytics by Edward Tufte’s books and courses.  He is a statistician and artist, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science at Yale University. He wrote, designed, and self-published 4 classic books on data visualization. The New York Times described ET as the "Leonardo da Vinci of data," and Business Week as the "Galileo of graphics." He is now writing a book/film The Thinking Eye and constructing a 234-acre sculpture park and tree farm in northwest Connecticut, which will show his artworks and remain open space in perpetuity. He founded Graphics Press, ET Modern gallery/studio, and Hogpen Hill Farms.


Alberto Cairo – Alberto’s book, The Functional Art, is an introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization, the communication of facts and data by means of charts, graphs, maps, and diagrams.  Alberto Cairo teaches Information Graphics and Visualization at the School of Communication at the University of Miami since January 2012. He's also director of the Visualization Program at UM's Center for Computational Science. He holds a BA in Journalism (University of Santiago de Compostela) and a MA on Information Society Studies from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Barcelona). He teaches courses on information graphics and visualization, and is interested in the convergence between Visual Communication, Journalism, and Cognitive Science.


Jeff Johnson – Visual Analytics is a wonderfully engaging field of study, covering a range of subjects.  Someone recommended Jeff’s book: Designing with the Mind in Mind, which helped me understand how our minds work when we see something…and how many Analytics are developed without consideration for our minds’ capacity, associations and natural translations.  The concepts and principles in the book have helped me develop more intuitive and effective visualizations.

Jeff has over 34 years of experience in computer industry designing, implementing, evaluating, and testing user interfaces: 17 years as an employee at Cromemco, Xerox, US West, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems before becoming a consultant, and 17 more years as a UI consultant.


Stacey Barr – I discovered Stacey a few months ago, as the realization continue to grow that Analytics must have a measurable organizational impact to maximize potential value.  While I’ve been a student of Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard methodology for years, there was a gap between strategy and Analytics – performance measurement – that Stacey satisfies.

Stacey’s passion is performance excellence, in all facets of life. And she believes that measuring performance is the single most powerful force for achieving excellence in anything. 

Bob Behn, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, focuses his research, teaching, and thinking on the leadership challenge of improving the performance of public agencies: Performance Measurement, Management and Leadership. As I’ve learned, however, the principles and practices that Bob presents are totally applicable to all public and private organizations.

Bob presents his ideas on The Behn Report, where he examines “…the issues, dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities for improving performance and producing real results.”