According to The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI)‘s The Rise of Analytic Applications: Build or Buy?, Business Intelligence (BI) is the process, technologies, and tools needed to turn data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into plans that drive profitable business actions. BI encompasses data warehousing, business analytics tools, and content/knowledge management. In other words, Business Intelligence is the right mix of business operations and technology implementation that provides data to make effective decisions. By no means, BI is an IT-only or a business-only project.
BI is about capturing the data, interpreting the data and using the data to improve the organization. This BI data can come from internal sources such as accounting, customer service, finance, human resources, information technology, marketing, operations, and sales departments. This BI data can also come from external sources such as customers, vendors, partners, and governments. When your organization collects data from internal and external sources then this is the first step in understanding what data is used across the organization. Due to the siloed nature of most organizations, you would quickly find out that certain types of data is redundant and captured multiple times by humans (which is prone to errors) and by systems (which is prone to duplication).
Let’s say that you now have a better understanding and appreciation of how various types of data flows in your organization and which departments/teams use which data. The next step is to figure out which data is used for regulatory, compliance, legal, decision-making and is just nice-to-have. From this, you can also figure out which data is used more than once or should be used at least once across the organization. This will give you a good sense of which data is really relevant for improving the organization.
With all the information that you have gained, you have to now figure out ‘who’ will have access to this information and ‘how’. To figure out ‘who’, this will be a discussion with various organizational departments, top organizational executives and frontline employees. To figure out ‘how’, this will be a discussion with the IT department if they have the budget to build and maintain a system that can capture data from various sources or if they have the budget to buy and maintain a system that can capture data from various sources to make ad-hoc or canned reports through a dashboard and what models (forecasting, predictive, prescriptive and optimization) can be used. At the end of the day, BI is about providing data to the people who need it the most to carry on and improve their tasks.
By now, you have a better understanding that standing up a BI system is a holistic endeavor that requires cooperation and collaboration from all parts of the organization and even beyond the organizational boundaries. To keep the idea of organizational improvements at the front, always ask the following questions:
|Who is going to use the BI system?||Who should use the BI system?|
|What data is relevant to the BI system?||What should be relevant to the BI system?|
|Where does the data reside for the BI system?||Where should the data reside for the BI system?|
|When does the BI system update its data? realtime vs. scheduled||When should the BI system update its data? realtime vs. scheduled|
|Why is the BI system important for your organization?||Why should the BI system be important for your organization?|