The process of commissioning business intelligence tools will form one of the earlier phases in strategic planning when a business is trying to streamline decision making so that it is largely evidence-based. One approach is to look at each available tool that may be used by partners or competitors and then find ways of incorporating it within the existing and future business plans.
The other approach is to set out an over-arching strategy model which will ultimately determine the processes and outcome of the commissioning. This article is intended to provide both an overview and introduction to the fundamentals.
Essentially the business intelligence tool consists of a mechanism (usually an application software package) whose main function is to extract information from within the already existing information resources, classify and interpret that information based on the agreed industry or sector algorithms, process that information into data sets that can point towards patterns or trends before finally establishing protocols for disseminating the resultant information to the end-users.
Whilst this may appear to be a relatively straightforward process that is based on logic, the reality is that there are many pitfalls to be found within this seeming linear activity structure. The degree of success with which each individual firm will be able to use its business intelligence can ultimately be traced back to the commissioning strategy when various tools where being selected.
The tools can very broadly be classified as consisting of spreadsheet based programs and their variants, data reports or queries, online analytical processing systems, digital dashboard suites and mining software. These in turn will feed into localized information protocols that drive performance management. The combination for each of these tools will depend on the particular needs and constraints facing the business in question.
The vital thing at this stage is to appreciate what you want as decision-maker and being aware of the availability spectrum on the market. At this stage, it is best to agree a mix of either all or a combination of the tools to be embedded within the overall strategy. It is very important to understand that not every tool detailed in the list above will be suitable for every business or for different segments within the same business.
Some people even argue that experimentation is called for in the preliminary stages before settling onto a particular combination of tools. If the business has the time and resources, the trial and error approach might give them more time to select the best combination. Alternatively they might decide to commission purpose-built tools that are designed to cater for the specific demands of a project. This is where business intelligence is highly specialized and consequently highly accurate.
Finally cost is always an issue especially if the senior decision makers are of the view that other priorities are more likely to directly impact on the bottom line. The costs are likely to go even higher if the components are bought on a standalone basis rather than as part of a package. However the skeleton overview above provides a framework through which each business will be able to assess what is available in the technology markets and then commission the appropriate business intelligence tool or combination of tools.