Business Intelligence @ Crossroads

Posted by Karthikeyan Sankaran
Comments (8)
June 25th, 2007

Business Intelligence (BI) is well & truly at the crossroads and so are BI practitioners like me. On one hand there is tremendous improvement in BI tools & techniques almost on a daily basis but on the other hand there is still a big expectation gap among business users on Business Intelligence’s usage/value to drive core business decisions.

This ensures that every BI practitioner develops a ‘split’ personality – a la Jekyll and Hyde, getting fascinated by the awesome power of databases, smart techniques in data integration tools etc. and the very next moment getting into trouble with a business user on why ‘that’ particular metric cannot be captured in an analytical report.

For the BI technologists, there is never going to be a dull moment in the near future. With all the big product vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP etc. throwing their might behind BI and with all the specialty BI product vendors showing no signs of slowing down, just get ready to join the big swinging party.

For the business users, there is still the promise of BI that is very enticing – ‘Data to Information to Knowledge to Actions that drive business decisions’. But they are not giving the verdict as of now. Operational folks are really not getting anything out of BI right now (wait for BI 2.0) and the strategic thinkers are not completely satisfied with what they get to see.

The techno-functional managers, the split personality types are the ones in the middle trying to grapple with increasing complexity on the technology side and the ever increasing clamor for insights from the business side.

Take sides right away – there is more coming from this space on the fascinating world of Business Intelligence.

Comments (8)

Manas Puhan - May 28th, 2008

Karthik, Just getting a little inquisitive on this note: 'Data to Information to Knowledge to Actions that drive business decisions'. Nobody can deny the pivotal role BI plays in today's business arena. But the pace with which global business trends are changing is appalling. Just to list a few quick examples. i) Not many predicted Indian IT industry to be the behemoth as it is today after the dotcom bust in 2000 or infact even prior to that. ii) Quite ironically nobody could again predict such far-reaching consequences of the U.S sub-prime crisis, in the Indian IT scenario.(Of course, the full impact of it is still to be felt & seen.) iii) Rising prices of food & oil globally has also taken every business (esp the airlines industry) by surprise. We witness several such changes happening regularly in almost every business/industry existing around us. The point I am trying to make here is though, without doubt BI is instrumental in enabling business decision making process, is it adequate enough to match up with the rapid changes we face today. How relevant is the trend studying mechanism (classical definition of a typical D/W) of the not so recent data is, in today's dynamic business sphere?. And if not, what more can be done to bridge this gap ? So, infact it might create a split personality in a manager trying to take a crucial decision. (The question grappling him would be whether he should take the help of technology & predict future trends or should he trust his natural business instincts more which might predict otherwise...?) :-)

Mohammed Rafi - August 2nd, 2007

"wait for BI 2.0" - I guess by the time we realize the existence of this terminology and ponder over the definition - folks are already practicing this concept. ( - not a promotion, really, - but found their articles and ebooks quite intersting - am currently downloading thier evaluation software to see what it does!!) I'm sure there are many like 'SeeWhy'!!

Karthikeyan Sankaran - June 4th, 2007

This note is in response to Ashwani's comments on this blog (dated 25-May) Ashwani, Thanks for your comments. Actually what you say is true but you are talking about an ideal world – Technology & Business understanding each other very well so that one knows how the other is going to behave in different situations. But in reality that is rarely the case. The main reason is that these areas are expanding rapidly on their own accord. New technologies are streaming through on a daily basis and business operations are becoming more complex in the globalized economy. You need specialists in each domain to make sense of the quagmire that is out there. My perspective is that technology & business will expand at its own pace and BI will evolve depending on the pace at which organizational decision makers become more techno-functional in outlook & knowledge. System integrators like Hexaware can do their bit to accelerate the pace at which business users start embracing BI for their tactical & strategic decisions.

Karthikeyan Sankaran - June 4th, 2007

This is in response to Jolly's comments on this blog(dated 24-May): BI is definitely an evolving field but it is important to put that evolution in perspective. BI in its original form started way back in the 80's with some the consumer goods companies using it for analysis & decisioning. BI literature with contributions from Ralph Kimball, Bill Inmon etc. started flowing from early 90's. Considering all that, it is only in the recent past, 6-7 years that BI has got a big boost mainly due to technology advancements and prevalence of ERP systems in organizations. In terms of evolution, my perspective is that BI has been driven top-down in most cases and hence there is lot more glamor associated with analyzing information relative to the backend job of managing data. Also the focus has been more on strategic reporting rather than operational intelligence. Both these aspects are bound to change and that will be focus of my next few blogs. Thanks for your comments. Pls. do keep reading.

Karthikeyan - June 4th, 2007

Thanks Puneet for your comments. A couple of points regarding your note: Siebel Analytics is not a new BI tool. Siebel acquired a company called nQuire in 2001 and integrated that product (which existed from 1999) into its BI suite. The last Siebel Analytics implementation that I was involved in around 2003/04 timeframe had some basic issues. The interface was great, intuitive and all that but drill across from dimensions to multiple facts was not possible. That was a very genuine business user requirement but the technology did not allow that. I hope the problem is taken care of in the latest versions. Any details from you on this regard will be very informative. Thanks again for your response.

Puneet Goel - June 3rd, 2007

Well, relating to making BI tools more inviting and BI techies thinking as Business Users, I must say you need to see some latest BI tools (for eg. Siebel Business Analytics,no product promotion intended) the ease of use and business user perspective nowadays, is amazing. Whatever hardwork done by the "Techno geeks" in the background, is not visible to the end user and what the end user can see, is pretty much what makes sense to a Business user. The gap is indeed narrowing, just explore more products.

Ashwani Agarwal - May 25th, 2007

Isn’t it, BI technologists have to think like business users and not just techno geeks set out to add newer dimensions to the world of BI every next day! Make the tools more inviting, something as indispensable as “Microsoft Word”. Technologists need to work in close coordination with market analysts and sales/marketing folks. Increasing functionality should not mean increasing complexity. This way the gap you have mentioned will be filled and both business needs and technology could move at an optimum speed.

Jolly Jaidev Singh - May 24th, 2007

BI is an evolving field so being at cross roads is quite natural. And the first one to crack the data-information- knowledge- Action paradigm is going to laugh all the way to the bank. At which phase of evolution is BI? Can you throw some light?

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