BI: what is it good for?

– written by Christian Schmidt, Global Director Business Analytics. itelligence –

As the call for business intelligence gets louder, it doesn’t necessarily get clearer. The missing element these days is not so much “what is it?” as “what is it good for?”

A recent itelligence white paper, “The 5 Habits of Effective Business Intelligence” – written by Paul Frith, Managing Director for itelligence UK, and Jason Foster, Head of BI Strategy and Financial Practice for itelligence UK – does a nice job of outlining how to make BI work for your organization. It also pinpoints the pitfalls that come from not clearly understanding the why of BI.

BI tools are numerous, detailed and effective – in theory. In practice, the white paper suggests, BI too often becomes a packet of IT bells and whistles that are routinely rung and tootled without the user – and the wider business organization – recognizing the tune being played.

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As the white paper makes clear, “BI is not a project; it is a strategy to … use data and information effectively in ways that improve your business.” For this to happen, it needs to be central in both daily employee work habits and in creating business strategy.  Rather than a lock-step IT tool, it must become a flexible, integral part of business decisions.

Moving beyond the points made in the white paper, as mobile devices and applications become a major part of standard business use, BI will be moving into the foreground for the individual user. Logically, this trend should bring BI out of the IT shadows and into the daylight.

As a simple example, a sales rep, with the proper tools, should be able to project use and needs for a specific customer, and these projections should feed into the organization’s broad BI picture. In other words, a lot of little BI seeds, planted by individual users, should produce a vibrant BI garden.

But “should” is the operative word. The actual result will depend on each organization – your company – flowing with these changes: accepting, understanding, and applying them in a constantly changing IT/business world.

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