Business Intelligence

To BI or not to BI?

Understanding Business Intelligence

Facts on company operations are often hidden in the systems of the organization. Business Intelligence (BI) is a tool, not just to dig up that knowledge, but also to interpret it correctly. Only then a company can take sound decisions.

But what is Business Intelligence exactly? What is the difference with Datawarehousing? What is OLAP? What does Data Mining has to do with it?

Answers to these and similar questions can be found in our comprehensive whitepaper, which you can order for free at the bottom of this page. Below you will find a short summary.


Business Intelligence is the challenge to make management information accessible, as simply as possible, using huge amounts of data. Success will strongly depend on the way the data is stored. This is the field of datawarehousing, and that is why it is inextricably bound up with Business Intelligence.

First the goals, then data profiling

Although usable data may be available, that does not mean that there is a case for Business Intelligence. The first step is the biggest challenge: to put the problem into words. What do we really want to know? Only when that question is clear, we can analyze the available data sources and their quality: ‘data profiling’. Tools like Oracle OWB are available to accomplish this.

Construct the data model

After analysis we can create the BI data model, also with tools like Oracle OWB. Various approaches are possible, for example dimensional, relational or a hybrid form. The choice depends on the principles and preferences of the organization.

The result

When the preconditions have been met, we can consider the needs of the end user. He wants to access the data in multiple ways:

  • Standard reports and dashboards: predefined elements, for example for the default Key Performance Indicators.
  • Ad-hoc reports, for example by the end user in Excel, or as an information request to a datawarehouse expert.
  • OLAP (Online Analytical Processing), to generate trend analyses based on clearly defined data subsets.
  • Data Mining, where an expert ‘trains’ the software what to do based on meticulously chosen instructions and data sets.
  • ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) has the primary goal to ensure consistency of the data being reported about. It is an essential part of a BI infrastructure, but setting it up requires a considerable investment in time and money. To determine if that is worthwhile, a preliminary pilot is often carried out using an open source framework.

That was the summary. The full whitepaper discusses Business Intelligence extensively. Starting with the most important definitions and followed by an analysis of the current situation. Subsequently various stages of a BI project are dealt with. The conclusion offers a concise summary of our view on Business Intelligence. The article finishes with a large number of links to background information and literature.

Order the full whitepaper in PDF format for free.


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