Having Business Intelligence Software ≠ Having Business Intelligence

But I just bought this expensive, fancy data warehouse and reporting software? What do you mean I don’t have business intelligence? 

A rampant thought amongst executives in the throes of their first business intelligence initiative is that if they have business intelligence tools then they must have business intelligence. That is sort of like saying “because I bought a steak at the grocery store, then I have dinner”. Sure you have the potential for dinner, butonly after you have properly seasoned and cooked the steak does it become a meal. Business Intelligence (BI) is no different.

Data warehouses are great, but…

Data warehouses often are the foundation of a business intelligence program. In order to create reports, dashboards, intelligence, and analytics, it is often a requirement to have integrated and consistent data in a central location. Data warehouses provide this foundation very effectively.

Data warehouse implementations can become rather costly. There are a few organizations that provide pre-built data models that drastically reduce the initial implementation cost. Despite not being as (initially) robust as custom data warehouses, they can get you off the ground much quicker and in a more cost-effective manner.

Once you have a data warehouse in place, the next great challenge begins: what do I do with it and how do I use it?

Tableau, Qlikview, Microstrategy, Cognos, Domo, SSRS, Crystal Reports, …

There are some phenomenal report and dashboard development tools in the marketplace today. Each have their own inherent benefits and weaknesses, yet most do a great job of allowing you to visually represent data in the form of charts, graphs, maps, and other graphics that can be embedded in dashboards.

But again, these reports and dashboards don’t build themselves. You need to have your data in a central location – typically a data warehouse or data marts – and then build the appropriate reports based on operational metrics and organizational KPIs.

Where many organizations fall short is in developing the necessary reports. The Tableaus and Qlikviews of the world give you powerful tools with which to present data, however it requires a time investment to learn the business processes behind your business’ reporting and learn the necessary report development skills to build the proper reports and dashboards to effectively leverage the underlying data.

Does business intelligence software magically learn your business processes?

One of the major potential opportunities in any business intelligence program is the ability to automate key reporting requirements tied to important business processes. Business Intelligence software applications cannot magically figure out your processes and how best to report the related data.

Popular tools like SSIS allow you to automate certain processes like data extraction, automatic data imports, and FTP tasks. These tools can automate significant portions of a reporting or business process, but the packages must first be developed after the process is understood.

The reoccurring theme appears once again – business intelligence tools and data warehouses require the necessary skills if you intend to yield the full value they possess.

What does it all mean?

I have used and love many of the products I have mentioned throughout this article. This post is simply meant to highlight that a wand without a wizard is just a stick. Only with the right skills and expertise does its value become apparent.

Business intelligence software requires individuals proficient in SQL development and report development. Couple these technical skills with business process knowledge and an ability to communicate business objectives clearly, and you have a winning formula.

As you begin to build your business intelligence strategy, start to ask yourself whether or not you have the necessary in-house talent to accomplish your BI goals. Understand what skills need to be developed or outsourced so you can return all of the benefits that a successful business intelligence program generates.


For assistance in defining your organization’s data strategy or if you simply have questions about business intelligence and/or analytics, please contact Brewster Knowlton at brewster@knowlton-group.com or call 860-593-7842.

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