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Business intelligence (BI) has been a maddening capability for a long time. Sure, increasingly accurate, informative, and visually appealing reports now reveal where your most significant business challenges are, but by the time you have access to this insight, significant damage may already have been done. And looking at a problem, no matter how elegantly presented in a BI solution, is very different than solving it.

BI capable of going beyond presentation and actually solving problems is the role of a new generation of BI applications (Gen III according to the chart below). This article discusses the development from Gen II to Gen III, from dashboards to cockpits, from dials and gauges to levers and steering wheels. Gens IV and V will be discussed in a future article.

Fig. 1: Business intelligence maturity levels

Allowing BI applications to "act on insight" -- and truly deserve the "intelligence" moniker -- requires that they be more intimately tied to operational processes and decisions.

Until recently, making this connection was impossibly complex. Currently, however, an underlying business management layer allows an organization to virtualize large parts of the business and automate many of its decisions. This layer, called decision management (or decisioning), offers exactly those levers that Gen I and Gen II lacked and that Gen III BI (as well as generations IV and V) require to make good on the promise of true intelligence.

Decisioning implements an operational layer by representing decisions in business rules and predictive models and executing the resulting "decision logic." At present, the technology is easily mature enough to express sophisticated strategies and policies in critical business areas such as CRM, risk management and marketing. As a consequence, these are the areas where BI has now moved beyond its reporting roots.

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