How instructive it is to reflect on the arc of an idea, the curve of a concept, the evolution of a notion. When business intelligence (BI) first hit the streets in the 1980s, it was just the next cleverly-packaged bit of corporate cunning for a CEO to roll his tongue across.
Today, as all cleverly-packaged bits of corporate cunning often are, this one has been subjected to a requisite stretch of intense scrutiny. And it has emerged a bit better understood, a bit more clearly defined, a bit more appetizing for the palate.
An umbrella term those in the know employ to describe the process of transforming raw data into something usable upon which business decisions can be based, BI is in fact the material response to a requirement for corporate organizations to be in better touch with their profile and how it fits into the overall scene.
The concept actually encompasses a complex tangle of a whack of different ideas — all of them united with the promise to contribute at minimum fresh insight and at most a particular kind of corporate transcendence.
In a nutshell, BI is about taking the data a company has on its sales, marketing, finances, human resources and so on, and pulling them together into interactive reports that are easy to digest. From these reports one might gauge how well the business is performing.
BI allows people to manage their business goals and monitor progress toward them, proactively identify business risks and issues, and really leverage the data they have to their competitive advantage.
In the years since BI has been tugging at our collective consciousness, it’s taken on many different forms: reporting, online analytical processing, ad hoc, data mining, predictive analytics, performance management and so on. Hardly surprising that the concept, visible across the current corporate landscape at varying stages of adoption, is still a source of confusion for lots of people.
A vast and proliferating crop of BI software helps see through the promise of more informed business decisions via efficiently-captured, comprehensively-analyzed, securely-warehoused and artfully-mined customer information.
But it’s not just about technology, this BI malarkey, and business folk neglect this reality at their peril. It’s the blessed union of all things — technology, processes and the ever-critical ingredient of people — that produces success in this field.
The best BI is people-centric. The concept after all is about feeding consistent, reliable data throughout an organization so that practically anyone can make strategic decisions in real time. Practically anyone. And the more folks that can be involved in the design, development and implementation of the BI system, the more likely it’ll bring joy.
So yank the notion out of the IT guys’ hands (aren’t they full enough?) and distribute it liberally and purposefully throughout the organization.
The most intelligent component of this business intelligence? That it is the property and concern of the entire business.