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Key Business Intelligence Functions
Most everyone wants to be more data-driven in their decision process. No one really wants to hear that the reason you made a specific business decision was that you had a hunch, a gut feeling, or simply felt like it. When dollars are on the line, there needs to be an intelligent rationale and a strategy to your story.
That’s where business intelligence (BI) comes in.
Business intelligence is a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational insights and decision-making.
BI consists of four key functions which build in complexity and business value:
The first key business intelligence function, reporting, is where a lot of people start and end their relationship with data. The more reports you take into a meeting the better, right? Wrong. Reports are static and don’t allow users to dig deeper, look for trends, etc. thus limiting the insights they deliver. Reports, queries, and search tools tell us what has already happened and where we are today. No more, no less. They offer limited value for forward-thinking decisions. Meaning, if you need to recap what you’ve done and where you’ve been, reporting is for you. If you need to explain what you’re doing next, why you’re doing it, and how it’s going to impact the business, reporting is just the first step.
Now that you know what happened, the next key business intelligence function is analysis. In this stage, we focus on why things happened. Being able to not only walk into your meeting with reports but also interpret and offer a rationale for why you obtained the results you did, is much more valuable. Understanding the why also helps contribute to making good decisions moving forward. Visualizations such as graphs and infographics can connect data elements and present them in a way that makes their relationships more obvious, statistical processes can give us a sense of how reliable those conclusions are, and Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) tools help drill into the data, exploring relationships that weren’t immediately obvious without granular or aggregated analysis.
The third key business intelligence function, monitoring, takes us to another level higher in complexity. Unlike its predecessors, this BI function offers us a real-time view of your business from a data perspective. With the gift of here and now, you can make adjustments to course-correct future results, catch an issue before it tanks your business, or simply be more empowered knowing the state of your business. Ditch the saying “hindsight is 20/20.” Dashboards, scorecards, and alerts give us the tools to proactively drive great results instead of reporting on the bad after the fact. This is also known as “operational business intelligence,” or “real-time business intelligence,” and refers to the data analysis approach that enables decisions based on data companies generate and use on a day-to-day basis.
Last, but certainly not least, is our final key business intelligence function, predictive analytics. As the name entails, predictive analytics processes data to provide insights to help you predict the future. If executed well, predictive analytics offer you the gift of time. Time to preemptively impact the future before it is here.
So, there you have it, the four key functions that make up business intelligence. BI takes you on a journey narrated, highlighted, and punctuated by your data. It tells the story of your business, past, present, and future, and allows you to play the starring role of adapting and pivoting as you go along. BI is the secret weapon to telling your best business story.