Business intelligence is all about taking your data and generating business benefits from it. So what this means is, taking data and turning it into information, creating knowledge then getting it out to people at the right time in the right place in the right format so they can make better decisions to drive business benefit.
In the last few years there's been lots of acquisitions and mergers in the business intelligence tools market, so the large software vendors have acquainted the pure play business intelligence providers. This is very interesting because only a few years ago the industry was unable to deliver what businesses were asking for, but with the business acquisitions of the tools, and larger companies getting involved, there's much more capacity in the technology space. This has resulted in the situation being almost reversed; the technology can deliver more that most users need when they start out with a business intelligence project.
So, if business intelligence is all about obtaining data to turn into productive information to produce business benefit, how exactly is that information presented? There are various ways in which that information can be formatted in order to conclude the best decision, and that information so more knowledge and benefit can be gained by the business. For example, it could have been a tabular report or it could have been a report with graphics in it, it could have been printed or it could have been sent by email, it could have been presented through office products such as Outlook, Excel or Word. It could also be presented through dashboards, which have an instant view of the business giving a snap shot in time. Once you've got this information you would have scorecards put together with red, amber and green making it easier to see your performance to target.
Due to the fact that business intelligence is such a broad term, it's often used in different ways. Part of business intelligence is performance management. Once you've got your information in a clear and concise format, you'll need to monitor how this information is then being used and it's ultimate impact on your business. Performance management is the process of tracking these changes so by encompassing performance management into your business management strategy you can actually change peoples behavior and change business.
Now you've decided your business needs a business intelligence solution, one of the first things you're going to have to do is a tool to actually allow you to implement that solution. A common mistake a lot of companies make is going to different vendors and getting several presentations, by doing this it's too easy to get wrapped up in the technicalities of the different technology on the market rather than the overall objectives of the products. Although this does help to give a good overall objective of all the different technologies, and, as a result, a good overall objective of the process itself, it can be distracting. The most productive course, is focusing on exactly what your business needs to achieve from this process and letting your vendor help educate you in how you're going to benefit from the technology within your business.