A really fresh look at business analytics

October 7, 2010
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A friend sent me a link to a webinar on “The End of BI as We Know It” that promised “A fresh look at what business analytics means”. It wasn’t clear who was speaking or what company was sponsoring but the title intrigued me (as it was meant to). But when I looked at the body of the description I was underwhelmed. There was, frankly, nothing new. The webinar promised to explain several things – presumably things that were “fresh” or not “BI as we know it”. But here’s the list (edited to summarize):

A friend sent me a link to a webinar on “The End of BI as We Know It” that promised “A fresh look at what business analytics means”. It wasn’t clear who was speaking or what company was sponsoring but the title intrigued me (as it was meant to). But when I looked at the body of the description I was underwhelmed. There was, frankly, nothing new. The webinar promised to explain several things – presumably things that were “fresh” or not “BI as we know it”. But here’s the list (edited to summarize):

  • Speed to deploy, to build, to get analysts serving themselves is critical
  • Must be able to analyze data from production databases and handle millions or billions of records
  • It’s critical to combine multiple data sources from the data warehouse to Excel
  • Must be able to easily and quickly build dashboards

All this is pretty mainstream as far as I am concerned – no-one wants a BI tool that is slow, that can’t access data from various sources, that can’t handle lots of rows or that doesn’t let you build dashboards.

And there was nothing about decision making, nothing about supporting different kinds of decision-making (from collaborative, strategic decisions to high-volume operational decisions), nothing about data mining or predictive analytics, nothing that fundamentally changes how companies can put data to work improving their business.

I gave a speech some months back in South Africa called “Does BI Matter” (audio and slides here in a large PDF) and I have blogged before about Why thinking about decisions should be a BI best practice. If you think you can improve day-to-day operations by giving everyone dashboard or reports then you haven’t visited your call center lately. If you think that the way your systems work, the way your website works, should not also be improved by applying analytics then you underestimate the extent to which your systems are your business. If you think the time it takes to build reports or the ease with which you can build dashboards are the critical measures of success then you are focused on means and not ends.

The reason you spend money on Business Intelligence is to provide intelligence about your business not just so you can have a BI platform. You have BI to make better decisions, to improve the way you run your business. If you don’t know which decisions you are improving then you are unlikely to make progress.

If that list really counts as “fresh” and “the end of BI as we know it” then we should all be worried….

 

 

Copyright © 2010 http://jtonedm.com James Taylor

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