Few words about: business intelligence?

A lot of people doesn’t know what is Business Intelligence. It’s funny but most of people with technical skills cannot explain what is BI and for what we need it. In this short post I would like to introduce you into world of bi. Some experts can say that it’s set of technologies, methodologies, architectures and so on. But what BI really is?

In our case we talk only about BI software and BI idea. In one word Business Intelligence is possibility to keep our data in order. Many companies have many databases in their organization. These databases are used by great software like CRM or ERP, but there is few big problems with this soft and databases: if your company grows and you’ve got for example 5 branches, every branch has its own software. It’s very hard to gather, consolidate and analyze this data together. Sometimes we need to know something about historical data, for example User A lives in Toronto and sells there  products, after two years he or she moved to new location – New York. In traditional databases data about his/her first place of living will be erased. BI solves this problem by building global data warehouse that can store data from many sources with normalized format. Data warehouse provide opportunity to store historical data with Slowly changing dimension mechanism ( I will try to explain it in the near future).

                Another problem is very simple but very hard to solve – end users. Sometimes when we look at our databases we can see great architecture, a lot of tables that are in concert with third normal form but.. when we look closer we can see something very strange like in the picture below:


In the picture we can see some data. First row is correct, every attribute is inserted correctly, but in the second one we can notice strange Hobby “___” – it’s simple to diagnose– somebody who don’t want to insert correct data, put random characters here. Other rows show us very strange fact too – people have only 2 genders but here we have 4! Application architects should give users interface where they can choose from drop-down list only two possibilities but they didn’t do that. Here we can see that they can put new values – it’s disaster of course because for us it’s simple that W=Woman and F = Female but reporting software it’s not intelligent as we are. Another think is Phone Kate and Jan has the same phone number, mistake or the same person? Hard to say for us, hard to say for soft. Business Intelligence give us opportunity to clean data, its provide some tools to build dictionary values like City, Gender, Country or Product.

Another feature that Business Intelligence provide is data mining. Data mining is very complex topic but in very simple term we can say that data mining give us information about our data that we cannot discover in the simple way. For example organizations can discover what products are sold together – it’s called basket analysis or group clients into groups using clustering algorithm.

Business Intelligence software include also reporting tools. When we gather our data, clean and form into data warehouse form we can build reports on it. Reports are very important in every company but they are as good as source that they are based on.

To sum up this small piece of text we can say that BI software :

  • gives company “the only single version of truth”
  • gather data from many sources
  • clean our data
  • give opportunity to fast access and query huge amounts of data
  • provide opportunity to deep dive in our data (data mining)
  • is advantage over the competition

I hope  now this term is clear for you.

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