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What Are the Most Important BI Fundamentals?

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Saw this question online and didn't see any answers, so figured I'd ask it here.  What are the most important BI fundamentals, data warehousing, data mining, SQL querying, SQL server knowledge, or something else?

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  • I had written a blog post an year back (http://www.beyeblogs.com/karthikonbi/archive/2009/01/what_is_safe_to_bet_on_in_busi.php) articulating what I think are the BI fundamentals at a high level (very high level, really!). In my humble opinion, the fundamental elements of BI and by corollary for the BI practitioner are:
    1) Business Process Understanding
    2) Architecting the BI Landscape
    3) Specific BI Tools expertise

    And from a definition standpoint, I would like to define BI "As a discipline to optimize business processes". Whether the optimal solution is a local or global optima is the subject of another discussion, I guess!

  • There is Data and then there is Business Intelligence! BI has to completely, and only to do with end users. Is your BI effort giving them the "intelligence" they need from the data that you are collecting? Is it giving them intelligence within a time frame they need, in the forms they need and is flexible enough for them to iteratively refine what is useful to them and what is not?

    All others like warehousing, SQL optimization, Data Mining, etc are all mechanisms that achieves the end goal, Business Intelligence!

    For a long time, as techies we have been hung up on the mechanisms that get us there rather than the end goal. It's like the carpenter that wouldn't stop talking about the great hammer, chisels and planer that he has, while you are waiting to hear details about the Mahogany desk that you have hired him to make for you!

  • The most fundamental element of a good BI strategy is ensuring that you have timely, relevant and trustworthy data to work on. People seem to forget that without this BI is totally flawed. You can have the most sophisticated analysis - but without the data it is worthless.

    Hence, data integration is the most fundamental element of BI.

  • I agree with Chris,

    The GIGO principle tells us that meaningful BI is impossible to achieve if the input is Garbage.

    Hence, as Chis says, "The most fundamental element of a good BI strategy is ensuring that you have timely, relevant and trustworthy data to work on."


  • I agree with Nari. My first reaction to this question was "creating information, in the form of reports and analysis, that actually help someone to make a faster and more accurate business decision" is the most fundamental element of business intelligence. Because it is easier now than ever, it is tempting to report and analyze quite a lot of data. But, if the resulting information isn't actually used to make smarter decisions, then the analysis is pointless. A well-organized operational data store, data warehouse or any number of user-facing BI tools are just instruments to the end goal of genuinely improved business insight and action.

    Brian Gentile

  • For everyone that has stated a clear link to a business process, I applaud you and agree. That the data needs to trustworthy, consumable and timely, we can all agree. I will add that the process of incorporating new updates and new data sources has to be transparent and consistent.
    I will add my own "fundamental" that should be reinforced in every BI project; that rapid prototyping and user validation has to be part of a continuous validation process. That process has to be agile enough to address the continuously evolving nature of the business issues that are challenging the organization.

  • I think all of the above are good answers. BI supports better decision making by ensuring people making decisions have better, more timely information and analytics. A while ago I wrote a blog on Information Value which basically comes down to a simple formula:

    Information Value = currency x consistency x relevance x interactivity x actionability x usability

  • As the next generation of business professionals enter the market, we will see big changes in business intelligence fundamentals. These new professionals who have been brought up on technologies like twitter, facebook, the iPhone (think mobile BI), collaborative forums like those hosted on linkedin and experience with the use of SaaS solutions will lead to a new set of requirements that will drive changes in the business intelligence space. So, don't think that todays BI fundamentals will be the same in the next 5-10 years.

  • user-pic

    Agree with both Nari and Brian on this topic. My first thought when I saw the link to this on twitter was well if I was asked this 5 years ago I would have said no; but in the majority of organizations today; here we are still fighting many of the same questions of what fundamentals are important to BI. We are still very caught up in the mechanisms of how to get us there versus managing to clear and concise goals.

    Business intelligence is really about the organization and its people working towards identifying data that is informative, insightful, and intelligent in a timely manner. The core fundamental here should be the creation of a BI strategy in an organization that is built on accuracy, measurement, adjusting and managing to these goals; irregardless of the instruments used.

  • I agree that strategy, requirements and implementation (incl. architecture and tools) are important. But I just wrote a blog entry on this very topic also listing these oft ignored (or misunderstood) elements:
    • Strategic Alignment
    • Business Data Stewardship
    • Data Presentation Architecture
    • BI Value Optimization
    Please see my blog entry on exactly this topic for details. I hope this ads meat to the conversation!

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