Business Intelligence, or BI, has been a deep subject for three decades, which is why it is possible to attain a master’s degree in business intelligence. There is much to learn in such a well-developed and widely used technology. And yet, for all its time on the corporate scene, BI has had some deep shortcomings.
Some even argue that BI often has been a waste. The idea to free data and make it available to business users for analysis that could support decision making was sensible. However, “much of BI’s potential was obscured by the cost and complexity of deploying it,” argued Matt Asay on the site ReadWrite.
In addition to the systems being complex and expensive, including the necessary training for users, they have had a limited reach. BI software has often focused on the structured information in relational databases. Although clearly useful, it rules out much of the data employees store in such files as spreadsheets and word processing documents as well as the large data sets managed by specialty databases, including Hadoop, MongoDB and Cassandra.
But that is changing. Companies are developing BI systems that can include unstructured data, data warehouses, and other sources. That will make all the difference in the future, because companies are increasingly turning to big data to answer questions. According to data from Forrester, 31 percent of finance departments, 34 percent of marketing departments, 36 percent of sales groups, and 38 percent of operations organizations all use big data. Those percentages will likely increase in the future. It means a growing number of managers and executives will want to get direct and speedy insight into the pools of data.
Not only will BI have a wider audience and expanding subject matter, but it must also find ways to partner with other disciplines and avoid a tendency to be “inward looking.” BI can partners with other major areas, including competitive intelligence, investor relations, and market research to combine internal and external data to answer important questions.
Sitting atop these massive bodies of data, BI can become the bridge between unprocessed information and executives who are increasingly frustrated with their inability to get answers to many of the important questions they have. To create the bridge, BI professionals will need to do the following:
• Learn and adopt new tools that will give them access to big data.
• Leverage technology to simplify systems for non-technical users.
• Gain cooperation of executives who have control over data sources.
• Improve communications to better understand what questions users have.
Rather than focusing on how BI has worked in the past, successful professionals will look toward the future and find new ways to better achieve the goals they’ve had all along.