Business intelligence (BI) is the set of techniques and tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes.
Business Data might be structured like database tables or unstructured like emails and IMs. This data might have been collected over long years. This might have been stored in various data stores like Database management systems (Oracle, SQL or Access DB), Exchange servers or SharePoint servers or even Social media Apps (if the business has a page in Facebook or a handle in Twitter).
The purpose of storing this data might vary from business to business but there is one common purpose – for compliance purposes. The government might require businesses to retain data for a certain number of years for audit purposes or the business is forced to comply with some regulations dictated by a certain agency for certification or business continuity.
Little do the business know that the data stores that they are maintaining are treasures troves of information that can help them grow their business, compete better and lead their respective vertical in terms of scale and profitability. These data stores also contain information as to why a certain business unit is not showing desired results or why even after enough effort has been put a certain group of people have not been able to attain their targets.
There is no limit to the amount of information that can be pulled out of these data stores. Very valuable information that can transform business can be made available to the Business Decision Makers from these data so that they can make very informed decisions that might lead to cut expenditure and lead to revenue growth and profits.
Even though this data is available in the business, it does not reach the decision makers in the right form at the right time. Many times, the DBAs or the system administrators put rules, policies and procedures in place for stricter security reasons that the data is far out of the reach of those to whom it really matters. People who have skills to analyze data are not able to do it because of data inaccessibility.
On the other side, even if the data is accessible, there are no proper user friendly "tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information". Tools so far available were designed with the skilled analyst in mind. A BI professional had to know the complex analytical technics that are far from the grasp of the decision enablers or decision makers. Even he had to adopt to the tool running through a long learning curve. So, the BDMs could not appreciate the value of the data that was lying in close proximity. The potential that underlay the dormant data remained unexplored.
Enter Microsoft and its Power BI tools. Suddenly, the scenario has undergone a sea change with the power of Business Intelligence brought to the end user. BDMs don't have to depend on analysts to provide them with BI info anymore. They can have access to databases through the powerful querying and importing tools, create data models themselves using the familiar Microsoft Excel and visualize the data to arrive at informed business decisions. They can also share BI information and collaborate on a common platform enabling other decision makers to arrive at informed decisions towards common goals of the enterprise.
More about this in a later post…