Monday, 17 May 2010

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence (BI) is the umbrella term for a number of technologies that make data more useful within an organisation. Whilst its roots are firmly in the computer software industry, it has been driven by a business desire for better information.

There is nothing new behind the motives that drive Business Intelligence. As long as we have had computers we have also produced reports to inform business decision-making.

What is new is the power of the software techniques to analyse and present data in a cost effective way.

In many ways, Business Intelligence is an odd name. It succeeds in simultaneously alienating both those who use the technology and those who do not. No business could be described as unintelligent. Talented, intelligent and determined business leaders are a prerequisite in starting any business.

Data Intelligence might be more descriptive.

Most businesses acquire more and more data, in more and more systems:
  • Current and legacy systems

  • Financial, customer relationship management, HR and operational systems

  • Database and spreadsheet systems
The list is long for even the smallest company. In each system data is collected, stored and reports are generated. The larger a company gets, the more challenging it becomes to make sense of all that data. Analysts are employed, more software is used, and time is spent trying to figure out what is happening within the business, and why.

What is needed is a way of making all that valuable data accessible, easy to use and insightful – not just by analysts, but by business people who make decisions every day. Which is where Business Intelligence come in – bringing the data in all those systems to life. It’s all about more intelligent use of data, to help business people make more intelligent decisions.


  1. Jenny Kowalczuk24 May 2010 at 12:34

    yes, so do you have a solution? I've been working on a six month contract for a client, most of my valuable time has been spent auditing an area of activity as they can't see patterns in their own data. The problem must come down to metrics - but how do you measure what you can't see and don't always understand... Do you always need an expert like me to do that work or can you clone me? (If you can clone me can we make one to do the laundry as well?)

  2. SQL Server BI tools are terrific for figuring out the hidden meaning in your data. And of course much faster and more thorough than a person could be. But it is iterative - so experts will always be needed to guide and interpret the results. An exciting time for those on both sides of the technology!