Business Intelligence Pocket Guide

Key Points

The Business Intelligence Pocket Guide written by CMBI's Enterprise BI Solution Architect, Colin McGowan, provides a concise introduction to business intelligence including BI strategy and project planning.

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About the Business Intelligence Pocket Guide

The Business Intelligence Pocket Guide steps through the essential elements for creating a successful business intelligence capability in your organisation.
Inside the guide:

  • 3 pillars of a business intelligence strategy
  • 5 essential ingredients of every business intelligence project
  • 6 concise chapters of practical advice

Written for the analyst, executive, manager, and technology professional alike, the Business Intelligence Pocket Guide is a jargon free and vendor neutral introduction to the opportunities and issues common to all business intelligence projects.

Read articles from the Business Intelligence Pocket Guide online

Many of the articles from the Business Intelligence Pocket Guide are freely available on this site. See the Articles page for the full list.

Introduction from the Business Intelligence Pocket Guide

Business intelligence and data warehousing are by no means new disciplines.

Yet most companies are only just starting to consider their potential, let alone harness it.

If you were thinking, ‘I’m already way behind the pack because I do not have a corporate data warehouse, and integrated business intelligence suite’, you would be wrong!

This is a great time to start planning and implementing a BI strategy. BI software is no longer prohibitively expensive; hardware is getting cheaper all the time; and most importantly, our perception of how data can help us is continually broadening through exposure to the internet.

Business intelligence for all budgets

A business intelligence program should start by raising awareness of the possibilities. BI technology uses innovative manipulation and presentation to transform data into something more useful: information. Each incremental improvement in BI technology lowers the cost of entry to companies that had previously found BI software too expensive. It also broadens the spectrum of suitable business problems. There are a number of different components in a typical BI solution and for each one, a range of available tools, most without a budget-busting price tag.
As money is no longer a barrier to entering the BI arena, what are the challenges? Where do we start the BI journey and what is the end goal?
Before commoditised BI software became available, companies could still develop bespoke decision support solutions. However, the challenges: development time; data volumes; and data availability, were barriers to all but the largest organisations. Today hardware is significantly cheaper than a decade ago. This means that, theoretically at least, our ability to process data is catching up with our ability to collect it. BI technology has exploited these hardware improvements. Data is also more available as companies improve and extend their internal systems, and through third party web services and open platforms.
With data readily available and BI tools lowering the cost of processing it, many more business processes become viable targets for BI development.

Business intelligence myths

Before we let unbridled optimism takeover completely, it is worth noting that there is a lot of marketing hyperbole about BI tools and outcomes that are neither realistic nor fully representative of the BI lifecycle.
When you attend vendor presentations of BI products, you may hear statements like:

  • Achieve one version of the truth
  • Consolidate all your data
  • Reverse the proliferation of spreadsheets
  • Remove your reliance on the IT department for reporting and analytics

Whilst each one has its appeal to different people in an organisation, these statements immediately oversell the capability of most BI projects and undersell the value of making efficiencies one small step at a time. Each BI project should achieve an array of different goals. Some of them will work towards these vision statements, but we should not scope a BI project or program at this level. Some are side effects of a well-implemented BI strategy, but they should not be the end goal.
BI works best when you take existing and accessible data, then process and present it so that the end user is much closer to a position of informed action than they might otherwise be.   

Low risk business intelligence strategy

BI and DW projects have a reputation for being risky but they need not be so. The BI strategy outlined in the following chapters is a pragmatic way to build a BI capability within your organisation. The strategy is your reference point, ensuring that every project improves the overall BI capability within the organisation.

See Also