Delivering actionable information to improve decision making capabilities, should be an implicit and fundamental goal of any Business Intelligence initiative. In my role as Retail Practice Advisor, I have seen many companies fall well short of this goal, largely due to their underlying approach.
Companies need to consider, and approach, BI as an enabling technology and seek to integrate all available data and develop the relevant analytics, unfettered by their existing reporting portfolio. Utilizing an information centric approach to guide the design, measurements and solution architecture enables quantum advances in business insight and analytic capabilities.
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them.” – Galileo
Objectively assessing data correlations, without the bias of current reporting conventions, can uncover ‘hidden truths’, that provide valuable insights into the business. Including free-form data analysis as an integral part of the solution design, and providing data exploration as an ongoing capability ensures that the solution accommodates changing business conditions, incremental business questions, and additional data sources.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford
User input is a crucial component of solution design, but it is usually strongly influenced by individual experience and the existing information delivery package. Striving to understand the ‘art of the possible’, and embracing innovation must be crucial components of project vision and design, to fully unleash the potential and the power of a company’s most valuable resource – its data.
“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs.
Making “Information Infrastructure Review” a critical design component solves two significant ongoing needs. Firstly, this proactively addresses the thorny issues of data provenance and data governance. Secondly, this upfront data analysis aligns with a focused information delivery methodology, where key measurements are presented along with contextual data (peer ranking, trend analysis, industry data, ….) and potential causal factors (demographic, weather, customer…). Note: Aligning the information presentation with the expected usage patterns, will be discussed in a later blog, but data linkages and information navigation are logical derivatives of the initial information analysis.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
In addition to providing powerful insights, following an information centric approach provides improved ‘speed to market’ along with a very logical framework for solution phasing, scope and deployment. This methodology also improves the breadth and quality of the underlying metrics along with providing a more focused and intuitive end-user presentation.
A fully functional BI solution should not only monitor and advise the users of current conditions, it should also provide insight, and support corrective and proactive activities. Albert Einstein provided invaluable advice, for overall BI solution functionality: “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Focusing on business insight, built on an information centric approach is a significant key in obtaining optimal results from your Business Intelligence investments.