Business Intelligence with a side of Ethics


Would you like a side of Ethics with that Business Intelligence?


In this week’s class reading, two articles discuss specific examples of when business intelligence systems succeeded, or failed, and the accompanying important takeaways of how organizations should properly use, analyze, and act upon newly mined data. In general, the overall sentiment of the author of both articles remained positive to the generation of data to intelligently standardize specific business processes to make organizations better informed. While the caveat remained that BI systems didn’t necessarily make the organization better (just better informed), information is power and vital to identify opportunities to improve inefficient processes.


Additionally, similarly to knowledge management systems, force feeding business intelligence projects won’t work. As this week’s article stated:

Like so many technology projects, BI won’t yield returns if users feel threatened by, or are skeptical of, the technology and refuse to use it as a result. And when it comes to something like BI, which, when implemented strategically ought to fundamentally change how companies operate and how people make decisions, CIOs need to be extra attentive to users’ feelings.

While it’s interesting that raw data now has to be handled sensitively, where users’ feelings needs to be kept in check, what struck me most about this week’s article was the industry context of this specific article and the effects BI systems contribute to the human element.


These statistics were given for the example of Hardee’s, who successfully rolled out its new Monster Thickburger specifically because the insights the company received from its business intelligence system showed a favorable (and profitable) market reception:


  • Two charbroiled 100 percent Angus beef patties, each weighing in at a third of a pound (150 grams)
  • Three slices of processed cheese
  • Four crispy strips of bacon
  • Topped with a dollop of mayonnaise that oozes from a toasted buttery sesame seed bun.
  • = 1420 calories (5945 kilojoules)
  • = 107 grams of fat.



Quite possibly the most fattening mass-produced burger on the planet, the burger is selling exponentially specifically because of positive analytics received from Hardee’s BI system. However, in the context of the fast food industry which is directly affecting the US’s obesity epidemic, how could Hardee’s knowingly contribute to such a plight?

The question begged of this scenario is when does business intelligence overrule the common sense and ethical behavior businesses should operate under? Having useful data as one’s fingertips is powerful; indeed, information is power. But does having information that shows enhanced profit mean the product must be launched? … Even if the product is overwhelmingly harmful to humanity?


Can organizations motivated by the need to make profits and please shareholders concurrently maintain high ethical standards and practices?



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