In this 14-part Business Intelligence series we cut through the myths, the hype, and the hyperbole surrounding the subject of business intelligence technology, speaking with a dozen industry experts about the changes you need to be aware of.
Do you know enough about the operations of your business right at this moment that you would be comfortable with presenting a report to shareholders about its operational status all by yourself, using only what you know and the data you have on hand?
If the answer to that question is, “that’s why we have a Chief Operations Officer / Chief Data Officer / Chief Business Analyst,” then ask yourself this: When that person presents this all-important report instead of you, and the data she presents tells you one thing but the words from her mouth says another, which will you doubt first: the person making the analysis, or the data on which that analysis is based?
Business Intelligence (BI) is the emerging art of ascertaining why your business works the way it does. Today, there are far more characteristics of business production that can be measured, than could ever be measured before:
- customer satisfaction,
- employee sentiment,
- transaction cost per purchase unit,
- numbers of suppliers required to maintain inventory levels,
- rate of profit per branch,
- days past due for open invoices,
- online revenue per query.
I could go on and list tens of thousands more candidates for potential key performance indicators (KPIs), which is the BI term for “things worth measuring.” I could go so far as to say all these tens of thousands of things are equally important, but that would contradict the whole point of being “key” in the first place. Something that is “key” should inform you immediately, without floating in the air in no hurry of ever approaching a meaning, like a poem by Gary Busey.
Your Chief Data Analyst, or whatever your company elects to call her, could give you a rundown of today’s KPIs. Or you could read it from a “dashboard” produced by the latest business analytics (BA) software. With the analyst, you can ask her to explain to you what these KPIs mean. With a dashboard, you can drill down into the deeper, underlying data and find out for yourself. Which would you trust, and why?
This series investigates the things you need to know to make informed decisions about your company’s BI technology strategy. These may or may not be purchasing decisions. Not every problem can be solved with money; if it could, Congress would be the Gods from Mount Olympus. You may already own some form of BI software, subscribe to some BI service, or utilize data warehousing (DW) equipment that plays a critical role in BI. Whether you need to replace it, supplement it, or leave it where you have it, is a revelation that may come to you as you read this.
This is not an exhaustive guide to everything you can buy in terms of BI. It is a replete, but concise, guide to what you need to know so that when you decide to buy or not to buy, you’ll know why.
To help us examine the important issues, and stick to what’s important, we have enlisted the help and borrowed the voices of some of the world’s most distinguished experts in business intelligence technology:
- François Ajenstat, Director of Product Management, Tableau Software
- Laura Bassett, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, Avaya
- Erick Brethenoux, Director of Business Analytics, IBM
- Kevin Clukey, Senior Product Manager for Reporting Technology, Avaya
- Joseph A. di Paolantonio, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
- Charles Gadalla, Director of Advanced Analytics, SAP
- Todd Goldman, Vice President and General Manager for Enterprise Data Integration, Informatica
- Nancy Kopp-Hensley, Program Director for Data Warehousing and Analytics, IBM
- David Millen, Vice President for Business Process and Decision Management, IBM
- Vamsi Polapragada, Software Engineering Product Strategist, Avaya
- Tim Van Ash, Vice President for Product Management, CA
- R “Ray” Wang, CEO, Constellation Research
Scott M. Fulton, III has chronicled the history of computing as it happened, from the unveiling of the Apple III to the undoing of MS-DOS to the rise of the cloud. Scott was one of the original online managers of the Delphi network (you remember modems, don’t you?), part of the original editorial team of Computer Shopper (you remember paper, don’t you?), the Senior News Editor at Tom’s Hardware and the original TG Daily (you remember... never mind), and for four years served as managing editor of Betanews. He’s the author of 17 books and over 5,000 articles printed worldwide in multiple languages. Scott also appears as contributing technology analyst on NTN24’s Ciencia, Salud y Tecnología. So basically, he has at least one finger in just about every medium, in hopes that maybe one of them will take root and bear fruit. You never know, something could happen. His fingers are crossed. (Which could explain the typing problems.) While he’s waiting, Scott and his wife Jennifer, herself a best-selling author (where do you think he gets it?), run Ingenus, LLC, an editorial services provider for technology and higher education publishers. Right now, their daughter is probably on Tumblr telling her friends how Dad keeps finding something new to go wrong with his VCR. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @SMFulton3.