Business Intelligence (BI)
Business Intelligence (BI) is not a technology and it's not a specific application. It's a process by which information can be gathered, collated and cleansed into a single place, and then made available to whoever needs it in its most useful form. This can range from simple reports and Excel spreadsheets, through trend analysis to complex dashboards and even predicting the future.
BI has been defined as the following in a Gartner Group Report:
"The key to thriving in a competitive marketplace is staying ahead of the competition. Making sound business decisions based on accurate and current information takes more than intuition. Data analysis, reporting, and query tools can help business users wade through a sea of data to synthesize valuable information from it - today these tools collectively fall into a category called 'Business Intelligence'."
Most IT systems are designed with one purpose in mind; to run your day to day business.
These may be in the form of:
They each do a very good job in their own right; however as an organisation it is likely that you encounter a number of the following problems:
- Unable to create new reports from an old system
- Difficult to combine information from multiple systems
- Users may not have the skills or permission to access some systems
- Running reports during working hours slows down other users
- Different users or reports use different methods of getting data, resulting in inconsistencies
- Systems contain unreliable or missing data that can't be easily corrected, analysed or excluded
- Different systems use inconsistent reference data such as calendars or product codes
- Information is only available through employees with specific skills, such as the IT department or even 3rd party suppliers
A Business Intelligence platform will extract the useful data from any number of source systems and collate it into a central data warehouse. Depending on your situation there may only be a single source system, or there could be dozens all using different technologies. As the data is copied, it can be validated, cleaned, summarised, standardised and even enhanced.
You can then decide who has access to this central pool of information, and in what format. You can be confident that your whole organisation is using the correct, consistent information to make their critical business decisions.
There are a number of tools available to make use of this information, ranging from Microsoft Excel, web based reports, interactive applications that allow you to 'slice and dice' your data, and dashboards that provide an instant 'at a glance' summary view of your information. Because these all run from either the data warehouse or OLAP cube they don't incur any performance overhead on your existing systems.
Each organisation is different and therefore no two BI implementations will be the same. Some steps will apply to you and some won't, but one or more of these stages will be relevant.
Using a number of tools, Purple Frog can retrieve information from any number of existing systems, spreadsheets, databases or files.
The data warehouse will be your central data store, and as such will be designed specifically to fit your organisation.
We will design an ETL package (Extract, Transform and Load) that will retrieve information from your source systems and populate your data warehouse. This package can also manipulate, restructure, filter and clean your data if necessary.
An OLAP cube will be designed that will provide enhanced analysis of your data, and dramatically improve query performance.
There are a number of different methods of viewing data and reports from a data warehouse and OLAP Cube, the best package depends very much on the organisation, the users and the level of functionality required.
Data Mining is possibly the most interesting and forward thinking area of BI. It analyses your data and then uses a form of artificial intelligence to learn and find hidden patterns in your data. The results can then be used in any number of ways for example - Predicting which customers are likely to respond to a specific mailshot.
Most companies could gain huge benefits from a well implemented Business Intelligence platform. We have undertaken projects that have taken as little as a week and as much as two years, with customers ranging in size from sole traders up to multi-national blue chip companies.
If you're still not sure, why not get in touch? We'll happily spend some time with you to discuss your situation, and explain what your possible options are. This would of course be without any obligation to take it any further.