Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just Another Fool with a Tool

Once, when Business Intelligence (BI) wasn’t a multi-billion dollar industry, it was an idyllic concept which revolved around enabling an analytic approach to business decision making. That’s what made me fall in love with BI over 10 years ago and what, in my view, gives the BI space its misty glow.

At the heart of the Business Intelligence concept lies the seemingly trivial ability to get answers to important questions. The CEO may ask the CFO how quarterly sales look compared to the previous year, and the online marketer may ask himself to which landing page they should direct new traffic for maximum conversions. To each of them, their question is equally important and has great impact on their course of action.

The general ability to get questions like these answered effectively is what measures the “intelligence” of a business. An intelligent business operates based on informed insight, while a regular (“dumb”) business operates based on guesses and hunches which could easily be wrong.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi – Thus Passes the Glory of the World
Being part of the Business Intelligence space used to mean something. The great strides made by BI innovators like Business Objects, Cognos and Microsoft have done a great job to promote the Business Intelligence concept and maintain its lucrative appeal. The fact that they couldn’t make it affordable beyond a thin tier of wealthy companies actually helped maintain that perception: not just any company can use business intelligence, and not just any company can sell business intelligence. Business Intelligence was for “serious” companies only.

Long since then, however, the good name of Business Intelligence has been tarnished. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the rate at which new “business intelligence vendors” keep popping up is ridiculously high.

Why the double quotes? Because you don’t need to know anything about Business Intelligence to launch an AdWords campaign or do some SEO work, and online marketers have been taking advantage of that fact to feed off the business intelligence prestige and throw a lot of attention towards their own goods. But these rarely have anything real to do with business intelligence. At the best of times, these are simplistic reporting tools, data visualization gizmos or expensive implementation projects masked by buzzwords like SaaS.

Is Your Business Really Intelligent?
The saddest thing is, companies genuinely wishing to introduce the modern and effective approach to business decision making inherent in BI get entangled in all this hype and end up paying a lot of money for “business intelligence,” when, in fact, all they have done was have someone develop a few reports or create a pretty dashboard for them.

Business Intelligence is not about what reports or dashboards you have, how detailed they are or how dazzling they look. It’s about being constantly hungry for new information across your entire business, and being able to retrieve it easily and quickly without constantly calculating how much it would cost.

Otherwise, you’re just another fool with a tool.
By: Elad Israeli | The ElastiCube Chronicles - Business Intelligence Blog

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