When talking about BI and all the solutions enabling to optimize it, we often refer to IT, information systems and in general about data management. It comes to mind that it is very specific tools often separated of the day to day organizations’ core business. Nevertheless, it seems that BI tools are more and more enrolled in a management context.
What is management? Let’s go back here to some definition: management is about coordinate business’ activities in order to achieve specific objectives. It is a cross-functional process where the goal is to organize, plan, control and guide the company’s resources and implement a specific strategy. Business Intelligence concerns all applications and technologies that will enable to gather, store, analyze data and give clues for users to make better decisions. In this sense, it can be seen only as a solution to treat data and decide knowingly according to those data. Treating and reading data is often made throughout more or less complex applications, but often requiring expertise and know-how, and so to say an “analyst stuff” process, often seen disconnected from the overall management that runs operationnal tasks and people to achieve it.
So what have changed in the past couple of years and which trends are rising considering BI tools?
The fact is that more and more BI solutions tend to integrate management parameters. First of all, as describe in the first paragraph, management is about organizing resources to reach objectives. What we can observe with scorecard or dashboard (which represents the end chain of BI applications that will display information in certain manner that will leverage comprehension of a certain situation in its environment), it is that they integrate objectives and compare them to results: you know if your are in line with the target you tend to reach (this could be strategic issues or more tangible goals as operational processes). And this was the very basic mission of scorecard and dashboard.
So why features and capabilities of those applications tend to enroll some management finalities? It appears that they integrate more and more capabilities such as day to day workflow, collaboration functionalities, project monitoring or mobile adaptation (this not being an exhaustive listing). The purpose of this technology is not anymore about only gathering and displaying information.
The day to day workflow help in defining what has to be done operationally, when and even sometimes who is responsible for it. In this sense, it enables to plan and control that every measure taken is well achieved and reinforce objectives accomplishment. Collaboration features such as the possibility to integrate comments, or interact with users will leverage the communication throughout the organization to push all company’s individuals in the same direction and ensure that they are all having the same information context. Project monitoring is about to follow-up each actions taken at an operationnal level and make sure that it actually has a positive impact on the overall objectives and the organization’s performance. Finally, mobile BI is one of the famous trend of the sector and allows users to access information in a way that is adapted to social evolution: the famous “anywhere, anytime”.
The overall observation that we make is that BI applications tend simplify the sector whether in accessing the information or in using application and improve the end user experience. In doing so, it tend to become a management tool because the finality is to be adopted by a larger number of persons in an organization and become a central point in their daily work. Information is optimized to be used as a way to manage people, to plan the upcoming workflow, to communicate and share information through the all organization and to all collaborators. It is not anymore an IT tool used only by analysts which requires specific knowledge and expertise, but rather a solution that go with employees in their daily projects and missions.