Business Intelligence Basics
How BI is a Specialized IT Function

By Joy Black

A short preview of what makes business intelligence successful by previewing differences between BI application development and functional application development.
Business Intelligence is an integral part of successful business management. Unlike most IT projects, the goal of BI is not just functionality of an application, but the data itself must be useful as a tool. This end result of BI should be higher net income, increased growth and efficient decision making.

Most businesses have very similar data needs for effective business management. Some of these could be

Strategic direction and management of employees, goals, and objectives
Software capabilities for at-a-glance decision making
Basic but effective and efficient decision support capabilities, including training, customer support and project management
Some companies have a difficult time keeping up with these three items. Not only is it difficult to keep up to date with latest technology innovations, but also with user requirements and customer demands. It must be understood that no technology stands alone or becomes successful on its own. There are key attributes that help contribute to success of this business intelligence arena.

Successful Business Intelligence depends upon several different attributes. Certainly, proven IT development methods, such as effective software development life cycle programs drive success. These methods start with documentation of the business user needs and how information will drive specific actions.

Two attributes make BI a little different. BI projects must be driven by how information will be used. A good business intelligence architect will have to become a knowledge expert on business processes that drive data entry. The IT group building out a business intelligence system must be focused on the business as a whole with the system development knowledge.

The second attribute that is unique to any business intelligence system is the linkage of day-to-day activities to the company’s strategic goals and visions. In the BI arena, some users need to know what happened yesterday and others need to know what business trends have been over the years. No matter what, though, the information delivered must be actionable, accurate and timely.

To implement a great business intelligence system, the back-end work is critical. Planning and documentation are critical to success. Not only do these activities ensure the right data is delivered to the right person in the right format, the actual development time can be shortened. The planning phase should include source-to-target mappings, business rule definition, data metrics definition and rules for data usage. Once the backend is built out correctly, front end data extraction tools could be added on top for standardized and adhoc reporting needs.

Good business intelligence programs require not only excellent IT resources and knowledge, but must keep focused on how information is used to meet business needs. BI programs need to keep strategic goals and organizational missions in mind when recommending solutions, identifying opportunities and implementing new tools.

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