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Columbus Global

What Does Business Intelligence (BI) Mean to Me?


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By Mark Jensen, Director of Product Management

BI Means What to Me?

Business intelligence focuses on combining computing power with your knowledge and experience to help your organization make the best choices.

Business intelligence is essentially timely, accurate, high-value, and actionable business insights, and the work processes and technologies used to obtain them.” -Swain Scheps, Business Intelligence for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, Inc.

The purpose of a business intelligence system is to produce timely, accurate, high-value, and actionable information. With the processes and tools you put in place for a BI system your goal should be to increase the validity and frequency of insights about your organization so you are learning and making more informed decisions to help your organization grow.

‘Insight’ is a good word to describe the deliverables that flow from a strong BI system. This insight, along with your organization’s industry and business experience, will help you make more informed decisions.

What is the Value of a BI System?

The value of a BI system comes from promoting and continually improving good decision-making habits. With a strong BI system in place, there are five touch points you need to cover to ensure the system continues to improve:

  1. Gather data
  2. Make decisions
  3. Take action based on that data
  4. Measure results according to predetermined metrics for success
  5. Feed the lessons from one decision into the next

By using a continuous cycle of evidence-based actions, organizations can adopt a rational approach to their decision-making process.

Who will use the BI system?

Business Users: The majority of BI users are going to be business users from department managers to executives. For the most part they’ll have reports delivered to them or they’ll login into a portal to access reports and dashboards. The reports they receive are typically static reports deriving data from an operational system like ERP, CRM or a data warehouse. They may also demand the ability to interact more with the data such as searching and slicing data, but this all still happens within a guided environment.

Analyst/Excel-Super User: This is the person who wants information now and doesn’t want to wait for IT to deliver it. We can think of these users in two ways:

  • Self-Service: Users who want to not only consume existing content but want to create their own reports. To do this they may have a pre-defined model (such as a Data Warehouse or Cube) and a set of tools to connect to it allowing the super-user to create their own content.
  • Business Analytics: analysts want not only to create their own reports and visuals, but they also want to create their own models. In this situation they will take data from multiple sources to create data ‘mashups’ to provide analysis for critical or strategic business problems.

Data Scientist: The increased demand for Data Science skills means an increased demand for specialized tools to support this work. Data Scientists typically will require a set of tools that allow them to experiment with multiple models unconstrained by schemas or existing datasets.

What are the benefits?

A BI system is an approach to solving business problems, a system for managing tactical and strategic operations performance. Today’s level of BI depth and breadth is possible because of advances in a number of related technologies, such as computing power, data storage, computational analytics, web-based software, and networking.

Numerous studies have shown that BI projects, when done correctly, have a positive ROI and an agreed-to, reasonable goal in mind. The commitment to BI, however, has to come from both the business and technology leaders of a business:

  • Business must create a rational, measurement-based approach to setting strategy and running operations.
  • IT must be prepared to support the BI culture to the extent that business managers are prepared to push it into all levels of the company.

There is no formula for determining the “right” reports and dashboards for an organization. What you will need to do, is put the right kind of people in positions where BI is to play a role. Your organization’s approach to BI must be agreed to and evangelized by the company’s leadership. Ultimately, BI is not about a particular piece of software or technology, but about a commitment to a rational, systematic approach to making decisions.

Contact us to learn more.

by InterDyn BMI

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