What is “Business Intelligence”?
A key tool for any successful business is its ability to intelligently research its market and customers. Without the ability to know who your potential customers are and what they really want, you can’t make optimal business decisions with certainty. You have no way of knowing whether you’re making the right choices or not because you don’t really know who is out there and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Here BI = Power.
You can go out and survey your customers to try to answer these questions, but even once you have their answers it can still be difficult to know what to do with the information. If you can’t analyze all the information you have, there isn’t much reason to collect it in the first place. This is where “business intelligence” comes in.
Business intelligence might sound like one of those useless buzz terms that get thrown around in the corporate world so much, but it’s actually a very useful concept. An early researcher for IBM described it as “The ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal.” In other words, it’s the ability to look at a bunch of information and find the important patterns, signs and lessons to be learned from that information so you can do something worthwhile with it.
Thinking With Data
Here are some common examples of problems that a company or organization might run into, even though it thinks it knows a lot about its environment:
- Despite a lot of research into their customers, a snack company can’t get anyone to buy its “all-natural” potato chips.
- A college finds that student average test scores are declining even after it has applied more funds to hiring more faculty.
- An auto company is having trouble getting anyone to buy its electric cars, even though there is a waiting list to buy Tesla.
- The water throughout a state is becoming more polluted despite all efforts to find and prevent continued contamination.
In all of these examples, the company or organization might think it knows enough to solve the problems that it is running into. It might even have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (or even millions) coming up with solutions that just aren’t working. The problem is that these companies and organizations just aren’t thinking big enough.
The Rise of Big Data and Data Scientists
“Big Data” is the term used to describe the ability of modern computers to simultaneously analyze more information than at any previous point in human history. If employed intelligently, we can use computers to sort through and find the relationships between enormous data sets that might have billions or trillions of individual pieces of information. While it would take people months or years to sort through this data mosaic, if they ever did complete it, computers can sort through all of it in days, hours or even minutes.
When you mine through all of your information using “Big Data” techniques, you can find some pretty surprising answers to your problems. Most companies make the error of looking at too small of a sample size in trying to solve their problems, but you don’t have to. When you harness the power of real business intelligence, you will discover how to connect the dots to discover what drives customers and keeps them happy over time.
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