Business Intelligence : Oxymoron?

According to Wikipedia : “Business Intelligence (BI) refers to technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information to better support business decision making.”

Phew!  That’s a mouthful.  What does that really mean?

I think if you asked a lot of my former employers they would tell you that BI gave them something to talk about and a means of understanding whether the business was successful or not in its objectives.  That is, of course, a limited definition of the power of BI — limiting BI to simple runrate metrics.  While barely scratching the surface of BI, this is a common usage scenario.   Too often, companies are satisfied to just have timely data for reporting – forget rule-based inclusion/exclusion (exception reporting) or any serious analysis.

For BI of any sort to be effective, it must be (1) timely, (2) accurate, and (3) directive. There are many analysis-based exercises that are not so structured:  these can generally be characterized as “data mining”.  BI is a means of understanding how current performance fares against expectations and how it might be improved.  What is sometimes unclear to folks is the importance and necessity of having a functional subject expert define and quality assure the reporting product to be developed.  Without having these people’s input and their buy-in the effort is likely to fail.

Recognizing the benefits of BI is a team effort.  I/T-centric or business unit – centric solutions are doomed to failure – albeit due to cost, ineffectiveness or corporate politics.  Organizations must make every effort to ensure that BI reporting efforts are carefully defined by technologists and functionals if the effort is to be ultimately successful.  The buy-in of the team – end to end – is critical.

I recently came across the website Zoho (http://www.zoho.com/).  If you have not been to this site, please do check it out for yourself.  The site provides a variety of online applications and low-cost alternatives to enterprise platforms (e.g., CRM).  Cool stuff- but even they don’t have an ETL tool!


1 Response to “Business Intelligence : Oxymoron?”

  1. September 27, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Thank you
    This is a cool website.

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