Business Intelligence 101

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Information is the basis on which we make our decisions. Experience, facts, and data shape our day today. This is not something new, for thousands of years, the information at hand was studied in order to make better decisions. The Romans studied war and conquered continents, the Egyptians studied construction and built monuments. In modern times, astronauts are chosen, interest rates are adjusted, loans are given, based on data. This way of making decisions also applies to companies. Decisions to buy, sell, and close companies are based on information presented to executives. Today, by comparison, the amount of data you have to make decisions is much greater than in the past. But, is your company using it?

Experience has shown us how data is becoming a focal point within organizations. Decisions are impacted by the analysis and insight that can be extracted from a resource that companies already possess. Data should be viewed as such, a resource or raw material for an internal product that improves efficiency and decision-making within the company. A very common system that stores and uses information is ERPs. These usually do not extract the full potential of the information they store, or information is not presented to you in ways where you can take full advantage of it. Think about it, a resource that with little investment can generate great value within the organization, all you have to do is implement business intelligence.

What is Business Intelligence?

Most people see it as interactive dashboards with charts developed in tools like Tableau and Power BI, but this is not entirely correct. Yes, dashboards are part of Business Intelligence, but there is much more that needs to be done if you want it to be successful. Business Intelligence is a set of processes and technologies for data analysis focused on business. That is why we should not take data for granted. Without proper analysis, insight may not generate any value for the organization. Due to this, standardized processes were created to achieve success in Business Intelligence.

These processes encompass 3 main steps.

  1. Define what you want to analyze
  2. Perform a process of Extraction, Transformation and Loading of Data to a Data Warehouse
  3. Develop KPI and interactive dashboards

The first step is where you want to discuss and define what you want to analyze. To help you understand a little better we will work with an example. In this case we decided to exemplify a salesperson analysis. This raises many questions, what will we analyze from the salesperson? Some options can be:

  • Sales by product line
  • New clients
  • Current customers

In this case, we will choose an analysis of sales by product line.

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The next step would be to extract the necessary information to create a Data Warehouse that facilitates the development of the dashboards. Before this, we must know how to get sales information by product line. For example, we will assume that we can extract the information from an ERP and we need to extract the detail of the invoices. Why the detail of the invoice and not only the invoice in general? This is necessary because we need to know which product line was sold. Furthermore, if we extract only the general information of an invoice we will not get the concepts and specific products sold. We should also extract the billing date and address of the clients to be able to do a more complete analysis.

Once the data has been extracted, the next step is to develop the dashboards. At this stage, it is important to make a good choice of your BI provider. The leaders in this market are Tableau and Power BI, very complete tools but at the same time can be expensive. When developing the dashboards it is necessary to choose the correct visualizations to avoid wasting time analyzing the graphics, they should be intuitive and tell a story. The point of business intelligence is not only to extract data and insight but that they come in an agile way and we should not wait for the information. A good dashboard design helps you decrease time searching for visualizations or navigating between different dashboards to access relevant information.

Having your organization’s data ready to be analyzed can bring great benefits. The business cases and situations that your company faces are changing and you have the ability and agility to be ready for tomorrow.