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Business Discovery: The Business Intelligence Game Changer


Information is being gathered everywhere around us, from runs batted in for baseball to patient records in a hospital. For many facets of our society and for business purposes, we collect information. So who uses this information and how do they use it? Several decades ago, tools emerged that helped many organizations and companies sort through complex information and report on it. These tools satisfied executive’s concerns for access to information that helped them better understand their customers, their business, and their industry.

These traditional Business Intelligence solutions promised the ability for everyone to draw insights from their information and help organizations make better business decisions. However, a major issue for vendors is making the data accessible for all users. With Business Intelligence tools, users had to be able to write complex data queries. They also had to know the basics of the data to ensure that query results were reasonable and accurate.

Even if users had the skills and learned to write a query language, they still needed IT to help restructure the data in order to look at it in a different way. IT would build cubes of data or data warehouses that allowed users to look at information from a certain perspective, such as creating a view to see information by division or by salesperson. The reason these cubes were so important was because there was so much information and so many ways in which to look at the data, that the queries would take a long time to retrieve results without cubes. Cubes allowed users to determine data views to allow the system to query information more quickly.

Let’s just say that all of your users did become proficient at querying the information. Your first question in your research may have been “who is the top salesperson in the Midwest?” With IT’s help, you were able to build a cube and get the answer to the question. While looking at the top salespeople in each region, you might have another question. “Is there a product that the best performers sold and that the middle performers didn’t?” or “Did the top salesperson in the Midwest sell the same products as the top salespeople in other regions?” The cube was built with the purpose of answering questions about regions and sales. Once the users analyzed the data they realized other questions associated with product information were not considered. In this case, the users would have to go back to IT to redesign the cube to view data from a product level.

A new methodology and toolset has come to market that changes the paradigms of Business Intelligence. Business Discovery truly delivers on the Business Intelligence promise of everyone being able to draw insights from data. Business Discovery differs from Business Intelligence in two primary ways. First, user friendly interfaces make it as easy as a click to ask questions of your information. The second difference is that Business Discovery allows you to look at your data from all the different dimensions without going back to IT to restructure the data.

In the cube example, every time you wanted to ask a follow up question to your original query, you had to make sure it fit inside the confines of the cube’s structure. Now, with associative database design and faster computer equipment, end users are not forced to analyze data in only one way. Business Discovery users can now jump from sales by region, to products by city, to invoices by customer in seconds. All of these answers can be obtained by the user with a click or drag of the mouse.

IT also wins with the use of Business Discovery. Now, projects that would have taken 6 to 18 months to complete with Business Intelligence tools can be completed in a few weeks to three months. Because the users can ask their own questions of the information, IT doesn’t have to create numerous cubes of data and canned reports for every perceived user request. Instead, IT can focus on pulling data from multiple sources (such as Excel spreadsheets, ERP databases, text files, etc.) into the Business Discovery tool. Once the data is brought in, IT finds the common data links between all of the sources and builds initial dashboards for users to analyze data.

Many companies could benefit from an analysis of their data analytics and Business Intelligence requirements. Some examples of the industries and areas of review that we most often see:

  • A large customer base (retail, etc.)
  • Complex processes (hospitals, etc.)
  • Complex products (manufacturing, insurance, etc.)

As we look to the future, we see Business Discovery tools as a great way for businesses to leverage their information resources and grow their understanding of their customers, business and industry.