It’s Not Just Data You Need, it’s Business Intelligence

I keep telling you, it’s all about the information. If you want a competitive leg-up, you’d better find out what data is relevant to your organization, where to get it from, and how to display it in a timely and effective fashion.

Sure, you can go online and finds all kinds of information via Google and Wikipedia, and you can display it right side up or sideways, but that just puts you on an even footing with everyone else.

People around me tell me I tend to use the terms Data Management, Information Management, and Business Intelligence interchangeably, and I guess that’s because I do!
And speaking of Wikipedia, I’ve looked up these three interchangeable terms to see what I would find. Data Management, it tells me, comprises all the disciplines related to managing data as a valuable resource.

Information Management, according to Wikipedia, is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences.

And finally the online encyclopedia tells me that Business Intelligence is a set of computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting, and analyzing business data.
See what I mean? They’re all more or less saying the same thing. You treat data as a valuable resource, you get it from multiple sources, you distribute it to the right people, and you use computing technology to do so.

I suppose as a point of differentiation, you could say that “data” is facts and figures in a raw, not necessarily organized form, which becomes “information” when you extract, organize and distribute it. Then when you provide the right level of analysis, it becomes “intelligence”.

In the not too distant future, Microsoft is releasing its 2012 version of its flagship database product SQL Server, and part of the product is a feature called SQL BI, for “structured query language business intelligence”. According to Microsoft, this will provide organizations with tools for warehousing huge amounts of data, then using data mining capabilities to identify trends and relationships.

Our early look at this product tells us that what Microsoft appears to have done is expand on existing technologies, scorecards and dashboards for example, and put them all together under one end-user platform. They then made sure it integrated well with their other products, like SharePoint for collaboration and Microsoft Office tools for end-user productivity. And of course, they’re making it mobile-friendly.

Competing products from other vendors also provide business intelligence tools. These include IBM, Oracle, and SAP.

A leader in Business Intelligence system for years has been a Canadian company called Cognos, which is now owned by IBM. Their systems are used quite widely, including many of our provincial government departments.

Also used throughout the province is SAP, by a German company who also strengthened their business intelligence offerings via acquisition, theirs being of a French company called Business Objects.

As you can see, there are many systems to choose from, and there are many more I didn’t mention, including custom software applications. The important thing is that you find one that works well with your existing infrastructure and produces the kinds of on-time, relevant information you require to run your business effectively and remain competitive.

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