Towards better business intelligence

Are you all set for business intelligence?Information. Almost all organizations accumulate it. Some rise above the others by seeing their data as a strategic asset to be intelligently exploited. The later requires a mix of vision, faith and creativity.

Do your organization truly understand the value, hidden away in arrays of hard drives?

For the sheer sake of achieving new heights, in this digital era, let’s hope it does!

The typical scenario is that of an organization which accumulates various pieces of data which are very seldom toyed around with to find new, more creative uses for. Just think about the various departments all working in proverbial silos or paranoid IT folks trying to “secure” the data so much that it ends up locked away in some data center, never to be seen again!

The era of merely shuffling numbers in a spreadsheet are numbered. Nowadays, the required data manipulation complexity level goes way beyond summarizing a column or two. It’s now about twisting the data way beyond its initially intended use to produce otherwise unforseen value.

As with lots of things in life, the inescapable truth is that the true power of BI, short for business intelligence, ultimately resides in the smarts injected into it.

Since it’s always a good time to start (1) implementing, (2) using and (3) profiting from business intelligence software and tools, here’s a quick list of things to do, intended mostly for BI newbies:

  1. Think big – Imagine how information can be used to improve -everything- about your business instead of focusing on the query tools (the low-level mechanics);
  2. Start small – A focused project, for instance, will likely yielda fast win, generate executive enthusiasm and provide insight into BI’s almost inevitable complexities;
  3. Encourage “business & IT” partnerships – Make sure you learn what drives the organization and staff the BI team jointly with business -and- techies;
  4. Clean up your act – Use a data governance program to improve data integrity, especially when your source systems are a mess because they could extend that mess out to your BI platform;
  5. Make tools engaging for users – Keep in mind that BI interfaces are typically optimized for different users and applications. As such, never underestimate the importance of interface appeal.

BI doesn’t come cheap and it’s not necessarily a walk in the park to properly implement but it’s typically worth it, especially when the right “data equals value” mindset permeates the organization.

There has been a surge in major acquisitions recently, such as Oracle-Hyperion, SAP-Business Objects and IBM-Cognos so that should, in theory, mean more software value for the money, assuming more smarts have been added to the “merged” offering. Although it’s still rather new, Microsoft’s PerformancePoint software might become a credible contender in the BI field, especially for mid-sized businesses.

BI’s increasingly strategic importance can’t go unnoticed, especially for executives.

Even though many organizations made their first steps with BI as departmental initiatives, they’ve transformed those pioneering developments into mission-critical apps.

Deploying BI across the organization brings, among other things, economies of scale thus reducing development and infrastructure costs.

In short, perhaps you too should take BI for a “data exploration” spin!

Tags: bi, business intelligence, strategic, organizations, oracle, sap, ibm, microsoft

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