Business intelligence (BI) has been around for hundreds of years, thousands of years if you have ever read the ‘Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. BI is simply a term to describe information which is gathered to make informed decisions.
I stumbled into BI quite by accident, when I was working at Motorola, working on Quadraphonic and surround sound systems back in the early 80’s (now called 4.0 surround sound)
We had a large amount of failures on the production line, which was costing a mint, after running surveys with fellow techs, it became abundantly clear, these so-called failures, were the result of laziness. It was easier to change a board than to diagnose down to the component level.
Peter Luhn was a pioneer in the modern era. Luhn was the inventor of an algorithm called MOD 10, which is used as a credit card validator. During the 1950’s he worked at IBM, where he predicted the use of AI where machines would learn from the interaction of users, and certainly a key figure of the development of BI.
It wasn’t until the 90’s after I had formed Crystal Clear Data where we brought in Cognos. We discovered immediately, there was a requirement that all data captured had to be cube ready. Cube was a term used to describe how data was viewed, you could view the data from different dimensions via an OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cube.
BI tools during the 90’s were perceived as expensive, and quite difficult to get any real traction in the marketplace. The projects deployed were not expensive on face value, a few thousand dollars, but this ballooned exponentially. Not because of the product, even in those early days it was a sound product. The bottomless pit, where money was thrown in by the truck load was not because of Cognos or any BI tool at the time. It was the flood light that shone on the client’s data. The bottomless pit which wasn’t there a week before, opened up like a sink hole.
The unexpected expense came from the flood light, bringing to the forefront how dirty, and unstructured the data really was, with it came panic, large amounts of money & resources were thrown at projects to get the data cleaned and systemised, before we could extract any meaningful information.
It seems like everyone is an expert when it comes to analytics, but there are very few people out there who truly understand data.
Even today you have to ‘Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt’. A great book by Harvey Mackay, and is still a good read, even if it is slightly off topic.
A few simple things can save you truckloads of money and headaches :
Ensure all data captured is dashboard ready
Your database has strong business rules in place
Online forms and surveys have been designed so they flow seamlessly with your offline data.
Ensure everyone who interacts with your database is a Centurion.
Beware of the consultant. Do they have a proven track record, or is it just theory, picked up from a previous employers’ presentation?
When your data is dashboard ready anything is possible.