What Is BI?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a response to the quandary many organizations find themselves in today: mountains of data but no good way to turn the data into actionable information. Reporting “bolt-ons” to existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications or a confusing web of spreadsheets (“Excel Hell”) are inadequate to meet the needs of a growing business. Even when “power users” are active in an organization, they are limited in their capacity and capability by the very technology they have mastered. As a final blow, more than one “version of the truth” frequently shows up in reports to management.

What is BI?

As defined by OnApproach, Business Intelligence is the set of technologies, processes, and practices used to collect, integrate, analyze, and present information with the aim of improving decision making.

The typical manner in which Business Intelligence is delivered is through a data warehouse or a data mart which is organized to enable flexible “slice and dice” analysis. The possible subject matter areas of any given Business Intelligence system are limited only by what data the organization collects, stores, or otherwise has access.

The key characteristic of an effective BI system is speedy access to and flexible analysis of data that otherwise would be difficult to use in the source system. A classic example is a accounting and finance module in an ERP system. As installed , the typical ERP installation comes with a canned reporting capability that will answer the most common questions. Organizations quickly outgrow these reports, especially when they need in-depth analysis to solve crucial problems or seek to develop innovative products or services.

As deployed via a data warehouse or a data mart, data is extracted from the source system (e.g. - the ERP accounting and finance module), transformed as necessary (calculations, etc.),and loaded into a “target” database table. The target tables are organized to allow analysis by various dimensions (e.g. – by date, by product, by customer) to allow the slice and dice capability.

Previously, Business Intelligence was only feasible for large organizations who could afford the required people, software, and hardware infrastructure . The technology has evolved so that small to medium –sized organizations can launch effective BI efforts for a much lower investment.

The ideal candidates for adopting a Business Intelligence capability are organizations that feel their current information reporting resources are inadequate due to incompatible legacy systems, reliance on “homemade” spreadsheet-based reporting, or planning and analysis needs that are not being met with existing resources.

A beneficial first step in sizing up your organization’s Business Intelligence needs would be to conduct a gap analysis between desired reporting and analysis capabilities and what current systems and processes are able to provide. This can be an internal analysis or OnApproach can perform a BI Readiness Assessment to help your organization understand the alternatives for providing better information for improved decision making.

Harnessing the Power of Data