Business Intelligence – a Technology or a Management Style?

“BI”, i.e. Business Intelligence, is more and more often mentioned in Czech companies. But what does Business Intelligence actually mean? Without answering this question, it is hard to correctly understand its benefits.
Business Intelligence is most often mentioned in connection with technologies. Many famous and not-so-famous companies offer applications for reporting, planning, customer relationship management (CRM), campaign management, etc. All these can be BI applications.

From this wide portfolio, the company GLOBTECH picks for its customers the applications that correspond with their size and current needs. In cooperation with the company DNS, GLOBTECH e.g. provides solutions for performance management, using IBM Cognos – either the Express version for small and medium-sized companies or IBM Cognos BI for large corporations, provides solutions for data mining or creates predictive models, using IBM SPSS, etc.

Each of these applications helps companies to obtain “better,” i.e. more accurate, data and to increase effectiveness. However, every new technology increases a company’s costs and complexity. Therefore, it is necessary to ask the following question: When do BI applications bring companies real results?

Companies receive a real value not from data but from their interpretation, i.e. information. The information that the management uses in its short-term and strategic decision-making. How often do we hear companies say: “we think” instead of “we know” or “perhaps, it will be” instead of “most likely, it will be”? In order to succeed, every company needs three basic premises – coherent vision, good information and open communication. The value of a company then grows with its ability:

  • to transform data into information;
    • to be open to both positive and negative information;
      • and to systematically use information in decision-making and in fulfilling its visions.

First there are data

No matter which BI application you choose, the process always starts the same – by collecting data. A systematic collection of data in a data warehouse for future reviews and evaluations is the basis of every BI application. When building up BI, we must deem all data as potential information; even the data that we do not need today may become tomorrow the only way to verify a certain hypothesis or to advance.

Based on an analysis of data sources and business processes and in particular a discussion with management about the vision and strategy of a company’s future development, GLOBTECH is able to identify all significant data domains and to reflect them in a data model that will allow to collect data in the long run and to expand such data as the company keeps growing. A clear and pre-defined concept and vision of a data warehouse is the premise of its sustainable development without the need of reinvestment.

In building a data warehouse, GLOBTECH often makes use of the experience of DNS, and the two companies together are able to provide a suitable configuration of HW and SW for a data warehouse – database, ETL tool or Master Data Management tool and thus to optimize the cost of the entire solution.

BI governance – who does BI?

However, even the best system and the best technology is not able to turn data into information. Real information is created by people. Nobody will be probably surprised that it is not easy at all to “do” BI. BI consists of technologies and thus it is necessary to know IT, advanced mathematics and statistics, to have experience in the given industry and to know very well the given company and its processes, products and customers.

Based on our experience, it is not important whether BI is done by the IT Department, Marketing Department or Finance Department. What is important is that BI is done by people who have the aforesaid knowledge and experience and are able to communicate with each other, and that management listens to them. Any “this-is-my-role-and-this-is-your-role” game kills BI.

Therefore, GLOBTECH considers BI a management style where a company appreciates information, know-how and experience and a company’s management provides optimal conditions for the cooperation of all people who can help to create and share information. Without a mind change, BI applications remain a mere technology that “only” simplifies work, but does not bring any real value.

Based on a lot of experience, GLOBTECH helps companies to create conditions for their successful entry into the BI world, to find a governance model perfect for a given organization and, in cooperation with DNS, to reinforce users’ and management’s awareness and understanding of the purpose of BI through training and seminars.

First step – performance management

The first application that can test a BI setup very well is usually performance management. Consistent and unbiased measuring of all company processes and the collection of quantitative and qualitative data from all domains of a company help to remove boundaries and to create conditions for mutual understanding and trust. The ability to deliver these data in the form of coherent overviews (scorecards or dashboards) and to interpret (comment on) such data for the management in a form that everybody respects proves that BI is starting to work.

Performance management is a first step – it is always necessary to know from the very beginning whether or not we are actually following the pathway that we chose. Every next step then multiplies this value.

Rosťa Levíček is a senior consultant of the company GLOBTECH