28 December 2011

Business Intelligence for the coming year

Recently I was asked by a business writer for my recommendations for “BI New Year’s Resolutions.” I doubt my response was what the writer had hoped for, since many business blogs and publications garner support from advertisers. And, when you are doing that for a living, you really want to write things that are supportive of the kinds of products your advertisers supply. These days, since business intelligence (BI) is all the rage, there are a lot of dollars being proffered for advertising of upscale business intelligence solutions.

For better or worse, I don’t have to worry about that. (Of course, my income is smaller as a result.) But, here’s what I wrote—along with some other advice to round it out.

BI New Year’s Resolution

RESOVED – I will never, ever, ever again undertake a BI project just because someone in my organization thinks “it might pay-off.” Instead, I will faithfully resolve to calculate—in advance—the expected ROI (return on investment) for the project.

I have learned my lesson: BI is not like an engine oil additive: departments can’t just “pour it in and expect the company to run smoother, faster, longer and get higher mileage” through some mystical power brought to them by the BI fairy.

In calculating the ROI, I will also remember that “approximately right” is fart better than “precisely wrong,” so will not waste my firm’s precious resources trying to hone a number to perfection before taking action—especially in this tough economy.


The second question to which this writer asked me to reply regard “top BI trends” for 2012. Once again, I’m pretty sure I let her down. Here’s what I wrote:

BI Trends for 2012

In 2012, an increasing number of small-to-mid-sized firms will discover that, to get started in BI, they do not need to make six-figure investment. In fact, they may not even need to make a five-figure investment.

If they can unlock “tribal knowledge” and begin to understand what to measure in order to make a real difference in the Throughput of their system (i.e., the whole firm), chances are they can make use of tools they already have like Microsoft® Excel™ to capture data from their ERP system directly via ODBC (open database connectivity) or OLEDB (object linking and embedding for databases). This may lead to insights, and those insights may lead them to market segmentation or other innovative profit-improvers. They do not need expensive software to build a simple, yet valuable, dashboard so they can start making more money sooner—rather than later.

In the next post, I will provide a concrete example of how simple BI can be done using tools your firm probably already owns.

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