What choo talkin’ ‘bout, Business Intelligence!?

No matter what you do to earn a living, a crust or your keep; clear communication is essential.

A mechanic needs to explain the importance of regular servicing to an audience largely oblivious to the inner-workings of a motor vehicle; a dentist the consequence of brushing one’s teeth to children who still believe in Santa; and an economist the impact of a ballooning trade deficit to an entire nation.

Perhaps more than most, the Business Intelligence (BI) industry is awash with miscommunication, imprecise terms, official jargon, unofficial jargon and precise terms used imprecisely. This state of affairs poses a significant problem for two main reasons:

  • It’s an area of considerable complexity even when explained accurately and concisely
  • The continued consumerization of BI – and enterprise IT at large – dictates that:
    • Business users are now the primary target audience for BI, representing an ever increasing majority of users
    • Business users will play increasingly large roles in the purchase of BI software

So how does this universally accepted trend impact the way the usefulness of BI should be articulated – and how the product itself should be developed?

Well, simply put, the communication should be simple – straight to the point. Seriously, would you buy something, anything, if you had no idea whether it was of any benefit?

As for the product? BI should be developed with one overarching question in mind – what’s important for people when they’re trying to make a better decision? Impressing a room full of propeller heads with peripheral impracticalities is unimportant.

The way we see it at Yellowfin, in the very near future, the vast majority of BI users wont know how to conduct detailed analysis and generate complex reports – it’s not their job to do so. But, that doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from understanding how BI can boost their performance, and using the fact-based insight generated from pre-packaged reporting and analytics to make better, faster decisions.

Business Intelligence is like an onion…

In short, we’re hoping to learn from the data visualization-oriented mockery espoused by our friends at theonion.com

So, before cocking our weapons of choice (mainly keyboards I guess…) and making a full-scale assault on 2013, we’ve taken some time to get back to basics.

Business Intelligence: A definition

  • Gartner: “Business intelligence (BI) is an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.”
  • Wikipedia, via Olivia Rud’s Business Intelligence Success Factors: Tools for Aligning Your Business in the Global Economy: “Business Intelligence (BI) is the ability of an organization to collect, maintain, and organize data. This produces large amounts of information that can help develop new opportunities. Identifying these opportunities, and implementing an effective strategy, can provide a competitive market advantage and long-term stability”
  • Yellowfin: “Business Intelligence (BI) is a broad range of computer software applications and tools used to report, analyze and present data in a range of formats, to help businesses identify trends and opportunities, and support fundamental decision-making.”