Every company needs an isolated “information environment” at some point during its growth process. This article is an initiative to create such an environment, regardless of the techniques (ODS, Data Warehousing) that will be used for it. Where are the miracles now? Why are spreadsheets no longer a sufficient solution? Can things be done differently and better? Many questions that deserve an answer.
Every information need finds an answer in the knowledge that is available. It is sometimes said that a business is as intelligent as the people who are part of it. In a strictly operational sense this statement may contain some truth, but it is not generalizable. Nowadays, companies are so segmented that knowledge itself has undergone the same segmentation. This often creates an acute lack of a panoramic perspective that approaches the different segments as a whole. This in itself does not take away from the knowledge available in each of the individual segments. With each progressive evolution of size and complexity, determining objective guidelines becomes more difficult. Decisions must take into account every facet of the business and be based on uniform information. And this is exactly where Business Intelligence comes into the spotlight.
A uniform approach to information creates a better insight into the subject matter and drastically limits the amount of energy put into the preparatory work. This frees up time and space for the effective thought process. We can therefore say that Business Intelligence will merge the various segments of a company into one or more uniform sources of information, taking into account every person involved within each of the business processes. This uniformity in turn leads to a strong simplification of the structure and enables a panoramic approach. Of course, molding a powerful information environment takes a lot of effort. Everything starts with having the right people in the right place and building a reliable technical infrastructure that can meet the high demand. And the whole story begins with that question. Building a good environment does not start with evaluating the available tools, but with a correct interpretation of the concrete needs of the employees. There is a lot of food for thought to develop an effective plan before actual construction can begin.
All too often, Business Intelligence is associated with the pure reporting of business information, while this is merely a partial aspect. Its principles lie more in forging a global environment that takes into account every possible information need within the company, a need that can go far beyond the straightforward representation of the available figures. However, the source often lies in such a form of reporting. In the majority of cases, this concerns a functional follow-up of the daily business processes and the search for a connection with predetermined objectives. This often involves a form of reporting on a periodic basis, with a fixed character, possibly supplemented with some ad hoc research based on the results obtained. In a further phase, one can proceed to a deeper analysis of the data obtained and at a certain point one can even venture into forecasting. People will try to form an idea of the future based on current information. What follows from this is no longer a guess out of thin air, but an image that is formed based on real information. Further study may lead to the detection of correlations and variations between the various factors and a completely new type of logical information processing will emerge. In addition to the assessment of details, there is something called the dashboard principle, where good and bad can be detected in an instant and actions are taken based on the observed image. Unlike forecasting, where the process is more proactive, further research here will be based on deviations, and not on operational reality. It is therefore rather a reactive process. An important aspect of Business Intelligence is how one handles the information provided and how one draws the necessary strength from it for the future. We can at least say that the topic is very varied and should in no way be globalized. Each company has certain specific needs depending on its size, financial capacity and objectives and it would be nonsense to attempt to define a general rule. But every process has a first building block, and in order to extract reliable information from the complexity of a segmented business structure, a specifically designed environment is needed. An environment that guarantees performance and keeps online efforts to a minimum. An environment that can be molded into a transparent layer that guarantees a realistic representation of the various business processes. An environment that fulfills needs from bottom to top throughout every aspect of the company. An environment that intelligently handles the information provided by the business and continues to monitor it closely. An information environment.