Monday, April 7, 2008

Shifting Mindsets on BI

Pete Graham recently wrote a post on Using Business Intelligence in E2.0 that challenged each of us to bring business intelligence (BI) into the business conversation (verses creating a business conversation around BI). It was a prickly role reversal for those of us who like to look at the information value chain in a linear fashion beginning with data: data -> information -> knowledge (picture below of basic analytical information systems strategy). However, he provided a gentle but persuasive reminder that our mental mindsets and diagrams need to shift.

Let me explain. The idea of information and its use within business is an old idea, but its mastery reigns rather elusive. There are three core competencies that need to be achieved: Data IN, Information OUT, & Knowledge AROUND.

Data IN
Every time something happens within a business, there exists the opportunity for us to capture a piece of “data” that records its occurrence. For instance, when someone walks into a retail outlet, their visit can be recorded with a date stamp and time stamp. When the visitor buys a greeting card, the transaction is stored, inventory is marked down, and cash can be credited. If the person happens to pay by credit card, the purchase is tagged with the person’s card number. If the customer scanned their loyalty card, the transaction is immediately tagged with their profile information - and on and on. We could go on to name thousands of activities that are tracked within our organizations. These transactions let us know that something has happened!

This is not surprising. We live in a digital world where many of our actions are recorded. The challenge for businesses is to store this point-in-time data in a timely fashion and in such a way that it can be accessed quickly and easily in the future. I call this exercise, the “Data IN” process. This is the opportunity for our organizations to capture all of the happenings within our business ecosystem. Unfortunately, this raw data is unwieldly to the average business person.

Information OUT
Therefore, an organization is tasked with putting this data into context so that users can see an evolving narrative about their business. This narrative helps us to understand the what, when, and how of our businesses and their performance within the marketplace. We get to see the single occurrence (or piece of data) with the context of the business story. This process of transforming data into “information” is invaluable and gives us the digestible analytics to manage, measure, and improve our businesses.

Getting “Information OUT” is achieved by answering both traditional and current business questions with information about the past or with forecasts about the future.

Knowledge AROUND
The last piece of the information value chain is to seize the Aha! moments and business insights and push them out to the organization. For instance, a store manager who sees a declining trend in her customer base may realize that a profound shift is taking place in her market. With the combination of some analytical reporting and some field observation, she may notice that a local competitor has cut deeply into her customer base. This “knowledge” needs to be shared with her organization so that other store managers can prevent a similar decline and so functional groups within the organization can support or assist with planning a response (or change to the business). Our companies have a need to easily and quickly share insights throughout the organization, or broadcast “Knowledge AROUND”.

Today’s E2.0 tools have brought renewed energy to the business conversation represented by the Knowledge AROUND piece of the value chain. Tools like blogging, microblogging, wikis, prediction markets, etc… are democratizing the voice of the market facing parts of our organizations! This is exciting because it allows the conversation that is happening out in the field – between the people in the field and the market (customers, vendors, etc… ) to more effectively influence the information value chain. To Pete’s point, at the beginning of this post, our organizations need to bring BI into the business conversation. If we do, we have the opportunity to consistently adapt to fulfill the needs of our changing markets.

Let’s keep thinking about the paradigm shifts required to bring BI to E2.o. What do you think? What topics should we be discussing?

1 comment:

Deb J Jones, Data Diva said...

I would venture that the last step in the value chain is achieving better business results with BI than we would have without it. The challenging is stepping across the gap from providing data and technology to support BI to providing BI to support greater business performance!

Love the blog and the conference looks very interesting!