Putting the ‘Business’ back into Business Intelligence

In the What’s in a Name post, I wrote about an opportunity to update the “business intelligence” term.

Gartner has been thinking about the same thing. It’s the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit this week, and in an Intelligent Enterprise article, Bill Hostman talks about the key trends and themes from the event:

Bill Hostmann Bill Hostmann

“We’ve started to get away from the term ‘BI’ because we want to get the word ‘business’ back into business intelligence. BI got pigeonholed as an ad-hoc query tool used by the IT organization. We want to reestablish the importance of getting information for better insight into business decisions, and we want to get the business user engaged in the discussion.”

“Companies have ERP and CRM strategies, but they don’t really have BI strategies or portfolios. That’s just starting to emerge as a requirement.”

Wait, isn’t that ‘Performance Management’?

The term “Corporate Performance Management” was introduced by Gartner in 2001, defined as:

 “all of the processes, methodologies, metrics and systems needed to measure and manage the performance of an organization.”

This certainly sounds business-oriented, but the CPM term is strongly associated with the finance function, rather than business users in general:

“The focus of CPM suite functionality is on uniting financial consolidation and reporting with the processes and systems used to support strategic planning and financial budgeting”

The new Business Intelligence?

The article isn’t clear about what Gartner proposes instead of using the term BI, or how CPM and BI relate. But according to Bill, BI is segmenting into three types of “applications”:

  1. Conventional analyst-driven business intelligence
  2. Strategy-driven business intelligence, in which you measure actual performance versus plans within a framework of performance management metrics
  3. Process-driven business intelligence, where the BI application is actually embedded within the process itself.

What will it take to engage business users?

The new segmentation does a good job of grouping how business intelligence is used today by business users. But getting them engaged and thinking about BI strategically is clearly going to take a lot more.

What if we started from the business users, instead of the technology? How do business people view BI-type technologies, and how they want to use them? What terms, models, and categories do they use to describe the gap between what they have today and what they need to be successful? What is the role of today’s BI in what they need? What else is missing?





3 responses to “Putting the ‘Business’ back into Business Intelligence”

  1. rob meldahl Avatar

    “The focus of CPM suite functionality is on uniting financial consolidation and reporting with the processes and systems used to support strategic planning and financial budgeting.”
    In regards to this, imagine all financial transactions being recorded as double-dimension, rather than double-entry, in a data warehouse structure that allows one to produce complete financial statements as well as correlate revenues and expenses with products, business units, and customer demographics. A classic accounting journal is simply a pre-automated OLAP database.

  2. Timo Elliott Avatar

    The phrasing is Bill’s (or Intelligent Enterprise’s rendering of it)… To be fair, he goes on to say in the article: “In this case the term ‘application’ is about connecting the BI platform at the data level, the event level and the workflow level so it has a really good understanding of the context of business decisions and the rules that apply to that decision.” So I think the intent was is to include automatic BI… Thanks for the extra links.

  3. James Taylor Avatar

    Well I think #3 is better phrased as “Decision automation where the intelligence is actually embedded within the process itself.”
    To talk about embedding existing BI applications in a process is to assume that all processes are manual (as only people can use existing BI tools). If you have automated business processes, and most companies have at least some, you need a new way to embed intelligence in that process.
    Check out this post for example.