Business Intelligence is Hot for Managers, not Just IT

Business intelligence — the use of software to employ data for more effective decision making — is generally associated with IT. However, eventually someone in management puts the data to work, and those people are hard to find.

Corporations have increasingly invested in BI to improve management decisions. Buying the necessary software and hardware is easy. The difficult part is landing the employees who understand the numbers and pull better results from them. A business degree isn’t enough. Even a masters of information systems degree is insufficient. Business intelligence requires an intersection of IT, business processes, strategic thinking, and managerial experience.

In the past, IT departments created reports and distributed them to managers, who would then make decisions based on the data they received. But the approach was inflexible. Fixed reports frustrated new insights because they always presented the same data in the same fashion. Designing new reports took time. Managers had to wait for IT to turn a request into a new document. Forget about an iterative approach that let managers refine an analysis until it provided insight.

In a modern business world, waiting for predetermined reports is a good way to let competitors get ahead. The explosion of data in corporations has moved beyond the ability of IT departments to spoon feed managers. According to a May 2011 McKinsey & Company report, 15 out of 17 industrial sectors in the U.S. have more data stored per company than the Library of Congress. The firm says there are five ways in which companies can use such “big data” to create value:

  • Making data available cuts search and processing time and can significantly decrease new product time to market while improving quality.
  • Companies can collect better performance data and use it to improve operations.
  • A business can segment customers and tailor products and services to better serve them.
  • Automated processes can help improve decision making, minimize risks, and uncover important information that would otherwise remain hidden.
  • Companies can use data to create new products, services, and business models.

No wonder there are positions for analytics managers in large corporations often pay from $70,000 to $130,000, according to Such people can make a big difference in a company’s success. McKinsey estimates that 40 percent annual growth in global data cannot be matched by five percent growth in global IT spending. The firm thinks that it would take an additional 1.5 million data savvy managers and between 140,000 and 190,000 more deep analytic positions to take advantage of the amount of data already available. That doesn’t account for future growth. Managers who want to move ahead in modern business should consider getting advanced analytics training with a business intelligence degree.