What is Business Intelligence
I don’t want to deliberate too much and provide hundreds of examples why BI = business intelligence and analytics is important. Let’s go with premise that is it vital in any business to have complete understanding of what is happening.
As a business owner in organization of any size or a manager I must know what is going on around me. I need to know details about how processes in my organization are going on. This will help me in detecting any issues that may occur and implement corrective actions.
I want to know how my finance is looking. I don’t want to constantly bother my accountants with simple questions; how much cash we have or what is the total of unpaid invoices. There must be a place where I can get all this information.
So, we agreed on who points
1. I have tons of question about my business that needs answering to make correct decisions.
2. There must be a place where I can find all of this
Now we defined what truly BI is, it is a place where information helps in answering questions.
What steps do I need to take to implement this BI machine?
How to implement Business Intelligence
1. Get list of all sources of information in your business: this list may go beyond your business. This days there is enormous amount of information on internet that will help you in making right decisions. Concentrate first on these places where it is easy to obtain what you need. In majority of businesses this will be finance, sales, production and people’s data. Put attention on the most important items that will provide the most value to your business.
2. Integrate all streams of data together in one place. To achieve this part, you must invest in some tools and right people to operate on them. There is no magic in this process just a bit of work. You can try to achieve this yourself and if you have lots of time and technical know-how, well you may have some chances on succeeding. This is so important that you must get right specialist to do it for you. Professionals will do it faster and better. Developers, architects and analysts will create very flexibly environment that will be easy to operate.
3. Visualize your data. The outcome of this process will be a place with plethora of visualizations that you can interact with. With few clicks any business owner or manager will get the answer.
The previous phase will provide you with an answer to questions you can ask or at least are asking on daily basis. Unfortunately, there is more questions that one may ask but they go beyond your imagination. Data that is collected on daily basis has so many mysteries that only advance analytics can help with.
There are patterns in data that no human can detect. The only solution is sophisticated computer algorithms that will crunch on numbers throwing out questions that you never thought you may have. This is what advanced analytics can offer. I will go into details on separate articles to describe process deeper with lots of examples and tools needed. So, pleas bear with me and next chapters will deliver details.
Business intelligence and analytics tools
There is no way to describe all tools that will provide solution to information needs in one article. Amounts I am taking about goes with hundreds and are good idea for a data solution bible. It may have few thousand words. Instead of taking precious time from you I will group them, so you will know what to ask for.
Before information can be cooked it must go through few phases. Each phase is distinct set of operations on data to make it useful.
Your people will get tools to connect to each source and read what’s there. This process will encompass lots of data cleaning and preparing before it can be used. I will tell you bad news straight away, your data is dirty and in majority of cases it is useless without much work. Imagine that your sources may contain user input data or professionally made web application. In all cases structure of data is not good to efficiently use it. This part is called ETL – extract transform and load.
Developers must get access to data, correct it and transform to shape making it readable. After this part developer will load it to some relational databases or other types of organized data storage.
Once data is tidy and clean you can start creating beautiful charts and dashboards. This is again complex task and make sure skillful and experience people are doing it. It is very easy to misguide reader by creating wrong visualizations. If this part is not build with good practices you may get confused and make bad decision.
This part is very complex, and I would advise to concentrate first on BI. Obviously if your business is mature and you have already experienced stuff hence you should build analytics at the same time. If you are new to this concept I would recommend starting with BI and as a consequence you get deeper understanding of your business. Therefore please go with analytics. If you have place in your budget, then get a good analyst or even data scientist. I can assure you that their input will be very valuable. They can spot or even predict what you should do to improve your business.
As I said before on the first glance data may not look very interesting but when you apply right technique and decode it, well you will see a diamond. That’s what analytics is, polishing a dirty looking rock that will shine.
I want to promote BI and analytics to everyone. There should be no business without it. These days even household having IoT devices would benefit from having automated BI.