The term "business intelligence", or "BI", has grown in popularity in recent years. The popularity of the term has revolved around technology solutions (e.g., SAS, Qlik, Tableau, Domo) and more companies have joined into the realm such as Microsoft and Google.
The term itself has been around much longer. It is an umbrella term that encompasses using information to influence business decisions and may be interchangeable with the term “business analytics” or a combination of all three words.
SAP, Oracle and similar enterprise systems were the front line of using the term. For some, their controls systems, help desk software, CMMS or asset management system can serve for business analytics needs.
The reason for the growth in BI technology? Eloquently speaking: Large amounts of data are derived from numerous sources with multiple input mechanisms and stored in varying repositories. Layman’s terms: You have a ton of stuff sitting in a ton of places created by a ton of people and things.
BI, as a tool, focuses on visualizing for objective, data-driven analysis. BI, as a mindset, is using the data and tools to allow a subjective, yet informed, analysis.
The typical user may spend 2-3 hours a month generating essential reports. This time investment has benefits, but also has a downside – that report quickly becomes stagnant when using traditional methods such as exporting from a database. The current BI trend focuses on simple, interactive, configurable views to allow viewers a variety of pathways into understanding what is occurring. Exporting is minimal as managers prefer a sustainable, ongoing experience vs. an overview that becomes outdated soon after new data is generated.
However data is prepared or whichever tools or methodology used, the concept of BI was established well before software was available. It is simply much easier and more flexible now to compile, compare, carve and communicate information.
Another term that has gained ground is “key performance indicators”, or “KPIs”. Not quite the same as a benchmark, yet they work together and both are measurable. Think of a benchmark as a goal; KPIs are steps towards that goal, maybe even treated as mini-goals. KPIs are helpful to not only identify where you are toward your larger goal, but also insightful when comparing against peers in your industry.
Dashboards are a popular graphical method to focus upon primary KPIs in a singular view vs. switching between various reports. Think of the dashboard in your vehicle: Each gauge or display is essentially a KPI, so you are already used to the concept of glancing to see what is happening and adjusting accordingly when needed.
In a recent study performed by Building Operating Management, Facility Maintenance Decisions and Dude Solutions, it was discovered that 1/3 of participants were somewhat familiar with BI, but very few were extremely familiar with the concept. However, 2/3 of participants are experiencing an increasing demand over the last 12-18 months for data analysis and reporting.
While many feel prepared they can address demands, it takes significant effort to meet the demands, and it is not a guarantee that executives or stakeholders fully understand the breadth and depth of what is occurring.
Where BI elements come into play is by allowing the presenter and the audience to engage in informed conversations.
BI dashboards are the gateways, allowing you to dive beneath the surface to understand what is transpiring. KPIs and trends typically focus upon displaying the normals while highlighting the not-so-normals.
When limited resources face unlimited requests and requirements, the need to identify, prioritize and justify actions based on business intelligence tools and intelligent business decisions is finding a new dynamic.