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Is BI more than just another software solution?

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Is BI just another software solution like CRM or ERP, or is BI much more than that?

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  • BI provides *information about* the running of a business, whereas (hopefully) ERP and CRM are used to actually *run* a business...

  • Certainly there are BI products and BI software that constitute solutions. BI is not as well defined as CRM or ERP yet.

    Compared to CRM and ERP, BI, because it is still being scoped, can provide more diverse solutions to more diverse organizations that make up an enterprise. While all organizations have customers, CRM was applied mostly within marketing and sales. ERP had broader application in that it organized data across the enterprise integrating finance, accounting, manufacturing, sales, service, supply chain, and so forth, but, it was focused on integrating across the organizations. BI can be as broad but it can also be narrowly applied to a function in a part of the organization. Since the idea of operating a business on intelligence has obvious broad appeal, the term is likely to continue to be adopted by many people with different views of what it is. That may never get sorted out. For now, the bottom line is that it can be both more or less.

  • BI is more than just another software solution. It presents information in context with intereactive analysis, alerting for proactive notification of issues, analytics to help characterise those issues, and enables scenario analysis to help determine what actions to take to resolve an issue or improve performance and business results. However, it also requires skills to interpret and use the capabilities effectively.

    So in essence true Business Intelligence (emphasis on Intelligence) requires a software toolset for capturing and manipulating data plus analytics that can be applied to the data, and in addition, it requires experience, expertise and best practices to ensure maximum effectiveness. These can be applied by a business analyst or embedded into the solution in the form of pre-defined metric defintions, analytics and guidance.

  • Business intelligence cannot survive without the human element. As hard as we try, software cannot take the place of human thought, associations, and reasoning especially in a fluid business environment. The only software which comes close is probably Watson, the computer playing the two best champions of Jeopardy. Even then, Watson sometimes provides completely obscure responses to the simplest of questions (see: Toronto is in the US?)

    BI requires two fundamental processes: gathering of data and interpreting of data. Software has yet to prove their superiority over humans for the "interpretation" element. Even if you had a very intelligent machine (Watson), would you want your final report to say that Toronto has two airports in the U.S.?

    You must have the human element to make the appropriate cultural connections. Humans are fallible, but they tend to fail much less than software in those connections.

  • The definition of a "Software Solution" is solving a given problem using software. In that sense, yes, BI is a software solution. However, compared to CRM / ERP etc., BI falls under a different category of software solution. CRM / ERP / Supply Chain solutions address problems related to the operations of a business. BI focuses more on helping with decision making, hence its also called as DSS (Decision Support System).

    As all the earlier writers have pointed out, there is a different dimension to BI solution, which is the human intelligence involved in identifying, consolidating, assimilating and interpreting data / information to make better business decisions that affects the top line and bottom line of a business in a favorable manner.

  • Is a Porsche Carrera more then just another car compared to a Honda Civic or an Audi A6? Each have a function, the Porsche has its speed , but all 4 must have a tire component to them.

    BI like a CRM or ERP is a function of the business, all have a human component to them, and each that can be improved with a software solution. The difference being is the usage of BI to assist in decision making activities, while a CRM or ERP solution is assisting with a operational task.

    Now a better question would be is BI as mission critical as a operational CRM or ERP solution today?

  • My definition of an enterprise software solution is one that improves / optimizes a set of business processes by leveraging software tools and technologies. In that sense, ERP/CRM/BI are similar in that they all have an impact on business process(es).

    The difference stems from the fact that ERP/CRM solutions are implemented to achieve 'best in class' business process while benchmarking it against similar processes in comparable industries. On the other hand, the focus of BI is on the business strategy of the organization. In other words, BI looks to optimize business processes with the intent of guiding the organization towards achieving their own stated goals & objectives.

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