Last week USA Today actually published an article about business intelligence on the front page. The story started with a discussion of a solar panel manufacturer so you had to read a little more to find out that the story really was about BI. I was pleased that an article like this would be published in such a prominent place. However, it was interesting to see that the story presented BI in a way that many people view BI, even though that view is somewhat inaccurate. The view I’m referring to is the one that implies that BI is all about the front end (e.g., reporting).
The article talked about a few BI reporting and analytic tools (Tableau, Cognos, Tibco Spotfire). While these are all great tools, none of them are a complete end-to-end BI solution. Like most front end reporting, visualization, and analytic tool, they work best when they are connected to high-quality data that has been structured correctly.
That’s the part that I wish the article had covered a little better: that good data is vital. To be fair, the article does mention that it is difficult, especially for large enterprises, to integrate data. My only gripe is that more time was not spent on that particular point.
For those of us that have been in BI for a while, we know that the availability and quality of the data is about 99% of the battle. Given good data, we can do just about anything. However, most of our efforts spent trying to 1) find the data 2) understand the data 3) fix the data, and 4) integrate the data. Once we accomplish that Herculean goal, we can finally think about actually presenting and analyzing the information gleaned from the data.
So even if USA Today didn’t say much about the data as I would have, at least they wrote about BI and produced a very good article. And that’s good to see. The data point aside, it really was well done.