Have we lost the true meaning and purpose of Business Intelligence?

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Have we lost the true meaning and purpose of Business Intelligence


Companies in a variety of industries are still data-rich but information-poor and this ratio keeps increasing every day. The rate of data generation is so high that organizations simply cannot keep up with generating insights out of it.

These enterprises lack the kind of actionable information and analytical tools needed to improve profits and performance. Business intelligence (BI) is the next logical step by management to start thinking about how to capitalize on the potential of BI to improve profit and performance.

Many companies have embarked on the journey of data warehouses and yet failed to use them to achieve BI. If you think the purpose of data warehousing (DW) efforts is to simply keep producing more reports then the organization has failed to achieve true BI.

The bottom line for any Business Intelligence is to increase profit and performance and if done wrong it is absolute waste of time and money.

So if your management is hooked on the Big-Data wagon and fantasizing about the hidden gold behind the untapped data sources such as social media, click stream, web logs etc then it is time to keep the focus on the main purpose of “Business Intelligence“. All these systems help us to analyze big data or small data but whether they really impact our bottom line is the question that management needs to keep it as the top priority. Every decision should flow and trickle down from this focus point “Show me the money!!”

For e.g Consider the case for Hadoop

Large enterprises have several data platforms such as Oracle, IBM, Teradata, Microsoft SQL server etc and companies literally bleed through their nose whenever they have the need to expand the storage or compute capacity for the Data platforms (think several thousand dollars for each Terabyte of additional storage). So for companies that already pay several million dollars for platforms like Oracle or Teradata, it makes sense to adopt Hadoop just to utilize the cheap storage. This is true bang for the buck!

Now, not every decision is that easy or relatable to the ROI. But with decent amount of due deligence on the management part like

  • Do we need another BI tool?
  • Do we need another Data mart
  • Do we need this report or dashboard?

If you are an organization under 20 or 30 people, you may not have any of the above issues to deal with. A simple excel based dashboard system may just be sufficient and this is all there is in your BI world. But there are several huge companies where every department has their own flavor of BI tool. One department may want a complex business intelligence system like OBIEE or Cognos whereas other department want more Tableau or Qlik like experience. So these huge companies end up having multitudes of data-warehouses, multiple BI tools and it is a complete BI medley that does not bake well.

On top of that there are new dashboard and BI vendors popping every day [due to the excess venture capital investment] and these in turn lead to confusing the management and doubt their existing infrastructure [all the VC money is spent on hiring the best sales agents whose job is to sell their BI tool as a complimentary thing to whatever the customer has].

If you look closer, every big organization has this BI Medley going on that is a serious mess and a big drag on the bottom line.

Is it not the job of the CEO/CIO/CXO to question every tool acquisition and what is the team going to exhibit to prove its true worth? Like, give me two good reasons why you need this new analytic package that works exactly like the one we already have but also has an extra pony tail?

Business Intelligence is not just a single bi product, or a technology or a methodology. BI combines products, technology, and methods to organize key information that management needs to improve profit and performance.

  • A data warehouse is not BI but part of Business Intelligence system that handles and stores data efficiently. Hadoop is a newer, efficient and cheaper way to store large amounts of data.
  • A Data visualization tool cannot simply be called BI by itself. It is an important aspect that enables the analyst to point at any data and see it from different angles like a CSI detective. Modern Visualization software are extremely powerful and play a very significant role in the whole BI ecosystem.
  • A dashboard tool in the same manner is one aspect of BI that allows the company to organize multiple analysis or metrics in a single view and that can be shared easily with larger audience. Modern Dashboard software have gone beyond their primary role and embraced data visualization, data discovery aspects as part of their workflow. It also contains in-built data-warehouse to store spreadmarts [excel and csv data].

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