Business Intelligence (BI) is that business activity that makes the new intelligent enterprise paradigm concrete. In increasingly digitized and computerised economic systems, it becomes imperative for companies to let the data guide them in order to make the best strategic and operating decisions in a conscious way. All organisations need to produce information on which base analysis, assessments and estimates concerning inside business context and external market, to be able to acquire and maintain a long-lasting competitive advantage.
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The companies that show themselves as unable to transpose and take advantage of these new scenarios of “decision making” are inevitably destined to be overwhelmed by more competitive players. Not only: rate and capacity of anticipating the competitors are today prerequisites for a successful business. It then becomes equally essential to know how to make decisions in real time to develop the most appropriate growth strategies for the business.
To achieve this goal an organisational transformation is required: indeed, it becomes necessary for the company itself to develop an intelligence of its own and to become a thinking “individual”, also thanks to the people who make it, of course.
What is Business Intelligence?
The concept of Business Intelligence is inevitably very wide and concerns the following fields:
1) Strategy:in literature, the BI is first of all a strategy to obtain or increase a competitive advantage that consists of basing the business decisions on data analysis coming from different information systems, inside or outside the company, in order to understand the determinants of the performance obtained and, at the same time, to improve the future ones, also on the basis of the integration of predictive techniques.
2) Business process:is that kind of process that allows the “transformation of sata in information and, so, in knowledge” of context in which the company operates and competes. The process starts with collection of data from multiple internal and external sources and then be “transformed” in graphically virtualized information in dashboarding and reporting systems to allow an easy usability.
3) Tool:in addition, the BI is framed in a set of tools and softwares that on one hand allow to acquire and manipulate masses of data on databases or other sources, on the other hand they provide reports, statistics, indicators, constantly updated graphics, easily adaptable and configurable even by the user (spreadsheets, ETL, data warehouse e Data Mart, OLAP, reporting and dashboarding systems).
An operational and concrete concept for companies of the future
Business Intelligence is, however, also an extremely concrete concept. As an activity performed in a company, BI meets first of all two very strong needs: the need of companies to automate flows of operations and to generate reports for the various business functions. Mistakenly one is led to think that Business Intelligence corresponds only to what is really just the final stage of a much more complex BI process, that is the dashboard and report production where the data “come to life”. It is obviously essential to make clear from the outset the objective of information that must be achieved. However, we can then ideally break down the BI in 2 maro-phases:
1) Back-end phase: certainly the most critical phase but, at the same time, the most significant one to reach the informative purpose, without which no virtualization can take place properly. In this phase it is fundamental first to understand where the required data reside: the sources may be of a varied origin, ranging from business systems (ERP, CRM, MES, PDM, websites, email, etc.) to external sources.
At this point the data must be organised, combined and manipulated in information flows that will need to be scheduled, i.e. make automatic and it is here that the need for a Data Warehouse originates, i.e. a secure data warehouse in which, by means of OLAP and data mining activities, you get those cross-data subsets (data mart) which are necessary to reach the informative objective at the base of the business decisions.
Then we come to the phase of questioning, analysis and organic extraction of information, i.e. to the achievement of the query.
2) Front-end phase:obviously, also appearances matter and it is precisely at this stage that the query, i.e. the information meeting the information objective, are graphically virtualized in visually appealing dashboards or report, by means of appropriate softwares.
Ultimately, the application of BI technologies represents a challenge for the companies that want to maintain their own competitiveness in the present and the future.
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