It is impossible to organize a profitable business without specifics. So, when selling a product, the manager must know exactly how much of it was sold today, yesterday, during the last month, and how much less or more it is, if we compare the available data with the figures from last year.
Competent business conduct involves getting answers to questions about the dynamics of costs, the amount of profit, etc. Such information is important for the management of any company. To obtain it, you need to implement a Business Intelligence system, or BI. This term means a set of various software products and applications specially created for processing and reviewing the company's primary data.
What is business intelligence?
Business Intelligence (BI) is a concept that has been used for a relatively long time. However, in Russia this term is used little, which is due to the lack of an adequate translation. So what is Business Intelligence?
If we consider the interpretation of the word"intelligence" in Russian, it is understood in only one sense and means the mental ability of a person. However, the translation of the term Business Intelligence, which sounds like "data mining", is not entirely correct. Indeed, without the use of intelligence, this work cannot be done.
The uncertainty of this term is also caused by the ambiguity of the word intelligence, which came to us from the English language. There it means:
- willingness to understand;
- ability to recognize;
- knowledge acquired or imparted through experience, research or study;
- state or action in the process of cognition;
- intelligence or intelligence.
Due to such a wide variety of translation options, the original name of this term in English is most often used or the concept of "business intelligence" is used.
A bit of history
Business Intelligence - what is it? For the first time the world learned about this phenomenon in the late 1980s. This concept was put into circulation by analysts at Gartner. It was used to refer to the user process, which included the steps of data access and exploration, subsequent analysis, and the development of understanding and intuition leading to informal and improved decision making.
This concept was somewhat clarified in 1996. Then they began to talk about Business Intelligence, that it is nothing more thana set of tools for data analysis needed to build queries and reports. The end result of the work done with such technologies is necessary to isolate meaningful information from a huge data stream. To date, the entire specified set of tools is included in the category called "business intelligence". We know it as Business Intelligence.
What is meant by this concept? Business analysis is a thoughtful process that allows specialists to turn incoming data into the specific information necessary to increase the efficiency of the enterprise and increase its competitiveness. This work is based on studying the set business goals and finding ways to eliminate the problems that arise in achieving them.
Business analytics is carried out according to the principles of business analysis and consists of several interconnected processes. These include:
- data mining;
- online analytical processing - real-time analysis;
- guerying - obtaining information using special databases;
- reporting - reporting.
Business intelligence is used by companies to make informed decisions, cut costs and explore new business opportunities. BI technologies are a broader concept than traditional corporate reporting. Significantly higher than their level and in comparison withthe usual set of tools used to obtain data about the operation of the enterprise. That is why business intelligence is widely used by CIOs to identify inefficient processes that are fully ripe for restructuring.
The principle of building BI systems
What is Business Intelligence? At their core, such systems are advanced analytical software required for reporting and business analysis. Such software is able to use the data available in various sources of information to provide them in a convenient way for the manager. The BI system allows a senior manager to get access to the most complete and truthful information regarding the state of affairs in the company. A feature of the received reports is the ability to select their type and volume.
Modern Business Intelligence systems are multifunctional. Because of this, in many large companies they have already begun to gradually replace other methods used to obtain reports. The main advantages of a BI system are its capabilities:
- Connections to any databases containing data.
- Generate reports of various structure, complexity, layout and type at the highest speed.
- Transparent work with data.
- Enforcing links between information obtained from different sources.
- Save data in any format that is convenient for the user.
- Flexible and intuitive setup of specialist access rights in the system.
The business process management system allows the manager to receive information himself and not depend on his assistants or the IT department in this matter.
Besides this, when using such software, there is an excellent opportunity to reinforce the fidelity of the decisions made with exact numbers, not words. In the West, such advantages have already been appreciated by many network corporations that have been using Business Intelligence for a long time. Examples of such companies are world famous Yahoo, Amazon, WallMart and many others.
All of these corporations allocate large financial sums for business intelligence. And this money invested in Business Intelligence technologies brings them invaluable benefits.
Principles of the considered systems
The value of professional systems designed to make the most effective business decisions is based on the following:
- Visibility. The interface of any software designed for business analysis should reflect the main indicators of the company's performance. Thanks to this visibility, the manager is given the opportunity to quickly assess the state of affairs for adoption, and, if necessary, to make decisions to correct the situation.
- Customization. Each user has the ability to customize the interface and function keys so that they are convenient for him.
- Layer. Each set of data provided by the BI system should contain severallayers (cuts). This will allow information to be provided at the level of detail required at a particular level.
- Interactivity. Users need to be able to collect information in several directions and from all sources simultaneously. To do this, the system provides a function to configure alerts for certain key parameters.
- Multithreading and access control. A BI system needs to support the work of a large number of users with the possibility of setting a different access level for each of them.
The above Business Intelligence principles are supported by all advanced BI applications.
Possibility of integration
What is the benefit of using a business intelligence system? Its capabilities can be grouped into three areas, the first of which is the integration of Business Intelligence. The following criteria apply in this direction:
- Infrastructure. These are Business Intelligence (BI) tools that need to be implemented in a unified way. For this, common metadata, a single object, as well as an end-to-end model of administration, security and portal integration are used. In addition, the system tools have a common engine for executing requests.
- Development. For the BI platform to work effectively, it needs to provide users and developers with a set of special tools that allow them to create specific applications. These products must be able to integrate with each other. Also, applications to BI systems need tobe integrated into the chain of end-to-end business processes, including third-party business applications implemented from the outside. At the same time, even if some of these tools should be created in such a way as to be accessible on an intuitive level for users who do not have programming skills. It is also desirable to have a graphical interface. In addition, the development environment must support web services that solve the tasks of management, administration, information delivery, compliance with regulations and work schedules.
- Metadata management. This criterion is one of the most important. All tools of the BI system should be held together not only by a metadata model, but also have common tools for obtaining, searching, storing, and reusing information with the possibility of publishing it. Such objects include sets and arrays, hierarchies, elements and reporting metrics.
- Interaction. To make effective business decisions, a BI system must include tools that involve the exchange of not only the information itself, but also the opinions of specialists about the data received. All this can be done through conferences and discussion forums. In addition, BI applications have the ability to assign an individual task to users. It also provides for tracking its implementation. Sometimes, in order to implement these tasks, you need to install separate applications that are not originally part of the business intelligence system and are independent.
This is the second direction of Business Intelligence, which includes the following system features:
- Reporting. Business analysis is impossible without interactive and formatted data presentation. At the same time, the BI system must have developed mechanisms that allow updating and disseminating the information received. Its effective operation is impossible without support for various report styles.
- Information (control) panels. This feature of the business intelligence system is one of the types that serve for reporting. In a separate line, dashboards are due to their important and exceptional ability to provide data not only in a visual, but also in an intuitive way. For this, various indicators, scales, indicators, etc. are used. These dashboards provide users with the ability to monitor the current status of key processes and indicators against their planned values. At the same time, the manager owns operational information, and the business applications used make it available in real time.
- Random queries. This feature of the BI system allows the user to create, and then execute non-standard, unique requests on their own, without involving IT specialists. In order to implement such opportunities, when developing a BI platform, a semantic layer is included in it. It allows you to find the necessary information and extract it from the provided sources. In addition, in order to provideA similar feature in the business intelligence system is the tools that audit requests, which allows you to make sure that the actions are correct.
- Integration with applications included in Microsoft Office. Sometimes the BI platform is used as an intermediate tool when performing analytical tasks, while observing the rules of data security and correctness. In this case, Microsoft Office products are the client part of the business intelligence system. Specifically, it's Excel. In these cases, the BI vendor must provide full integration with Microsoft Office. This includes support for pivot tables, form, document formats, and mechanisms designed to provide the system with data. The extended version of integration provides for the possibility of blocking some cells, as well as moving back to the database those databases that have been modified.
- Search for information. This capability of the BI system is necessary to make it easy for users to navigate and study data thanks to the search interface.
- Mobile opportunities. This functional block combines tools that allow you to deliver dashboard content and reports to tablets and smartphones.
The next direction of Business Intelligence provides the following opportunities:
- Online analytical processing of data (OnLine Analytical Processing, OLAP). Such support allows you to speed up the process of processing requests, as well as performing calculations. This provides an analysisdata based on the required section of information.
- Interactive visualization. Such an opportunity is the most visual representation of the data. In this case, interactive images, graphs and diagrams are used.
- Predicative modeling. Such a business intelligence system tool is designed to help company executives classify the data received, form their own quantitative and nominal scales, and also use advanced mathematical tools for analysis.
- Scorecards. These technology tools allow you to control the progress of the planned strategic plans, as well as the achievement of key performance indicators.
- Prospective modeling, optimization and simulations. These business intelligence tools are necessary to support the decision, provided that the correct value of the variable is chosen when creating the random process model.
Implementation of analytical systems
The leaders of most large companies agree on the benefits of using Business Intelligence. After all, such systems are today considered one of the most promising areas of IT technologies. Nevertheless, the implementation of such software is often hampered by technical and psychological barriers, as well as uncoordinated actions of managers and the lack of specific areas of responsibility for employees.
When deciding to implement a BI system in a company, it is important to understand that the success of the project will largely bedetermined by the attitude of employees to innovation. The same applies to all IT products. A skeptical attitude towards them, as well as the fear of employees before layoffs, sometimes nullify all the efforts of management. The ideal situation will be only when the attitude towards this system develops as a tool that facilitates routine actions.
Before the introduction of technology, it is recommended that employees take Business Intelligence courses. This will allow them to successfully cope with work in the analytical program in the future. In addition, it will be necessary to conduct a thorough analysis of the business processes that take place in the company, as well as the principles that management follows when making management decisions.
The choice of a specific business intelligence system will largely depend on:
- tasks and goals of its implementation;
- requirements for data storage and the ability to operate with them;
- breadth data integration function;
- information visualization capabilities;
- required versatility or subspecialization;
- software product prices.
Consideration of the above criteria allows the company's management to make their choice from the huge variety of existing business intelligence software.