5 myths about business intelligence

For many years, business intelligence (BI) was perceived as something of a dark art. However, the traditional concept of BI is now outdated. Delivered right today, is an affordable tool that is accessible to all types and sizes of business.  

This represents a particular opportunity for SMEs that don’t have in-house IT teams or the resources for a dedicated IT department, yet still want to obtain the value and capabilities of BI and analytics tools.

Here are five common myths about BI that should be debunked.

>See also: The pros and cons of shadow business intelligence

1. BI is complex

Traditionally, BI has been seen as a highly complicated process – from implementation and pricing through to conducting the analysis itself.  As a result, it has been viewed as the domain and responsibility of highly qualified IT specialists within the enterprise.

In reality, BI can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. There are now plenty of agile BI solutions that can present data in straightforward and easy-to-understand formats.

The increase in visual analytics tools, capable of enabling non-technical users to independently query data and create interactive reports and presentations, has enabled business users to easily identify and present trends in an impactful way.

2. BI is only for large organisations

Traditionally, for the very reason that the implementation of BI tools required a dedicated team of highly trained IT experts and data analysts, BI was typically considered to be the preserve of larger organisations.

But having the tools to transform raw data into meaningful insight – to enable business leaders to make better decisions – is just as important for small businesses as it is for large enterprises.

Recently, there has been a rise in the availability of hosted BI environments and SaaS solutions, which present an excellent opportunity for SMEs that don’t have in-house IT expertise or the financial resources to support a dedicated IT department.

Fully hosted solutions enable SMEs to shift the ongoing management costs to the service provider, while enjoying all the trimmings of an enterprise grade BI platform.

3. Everything needs to be analysed

There is a widespread belief that a successful analytics programme comes from analysing every last detail. However, sifting through masses of data, and preparing lengthy reports, is a time-consuming process for analysts.

Not only can over-analysing organisational operations drain resources, it can also result in information overload, which can actually obscure decision-makers from focusing on the most relevant insights.

Instead, it’s more important to identify and prioritise the right information by carefully linking metrics and reports back to clearly defined business objectives. This approach helps to match the speed of modern day decision-making and optimises operational efficiency to make the most of staff time and financial resources.

4. BI is the preserve of senior managers

Traditionally BI insights were fed back to the boardroom. This mode of deployment was essentially due to the expense of implementing and managing broader implementations, in conjunction with the belief that BI was as a tool for senior management.

Today, there’s strong demand for BI at every level of the enterprise. And humans rarely take decisions in isolation – which is why data is more valuable when shared.  

As decision-making becomes even more complex and collaborative, with more stakeholders getting involved, the need for analytics tools that enable organisations to distribute insights quickly, to an increasingly diverse user base, is more important than ever.

BI insights can be shared using a variety of ‘social’ tools, such as storyboard platforms, timelines and discussion areas where users can ‘vote’ on real issues.

All of these collaborative capabilities help push the benefit of BI across the enterprise, rather than restricting it to one elite group.

5. Everyone is going to become a data scientist

The growth of self-service data discovery tools is putting BI in the hands of users that aren't technically trained in data analysis. Whilst we believe BI should be easy and accessible, the danger of assuming that anyone can become a data scientist can contribute to a serious governance problem.

Rolling out desktop BI tools without specific enterprise-wide governance in place can create masses of siloed, ungoverned information. BI can then become vulnerable to a lack of accountability and accuracy, leading to a lack of trust among users and user abandonment. Or, perhaps worse, it can breed decision-making based on incorrect data and analysis.

Instead, while relevant business decision-makers need to be able to access BI content uninhibited, that BI content should be principally created, and firmly regulated, by appropriately qualified data experts to underpin accurate decision-making.

>See also: Gartner’s business intelligence predictions

BI technology is becoming increasingly accessible to a wider group of organisations and range of users – both technologically and financially. These changes have put paid to the notion that enterprise quality reporting and analytics is only available to the executive management teams of Fortune 500 companies.

To support the abolition of these myths, vendors need to provide agile solutions that allow more business users to access, share and act on a single source of trustworthy information in a controlled yet highly accessible environment.


Sourced from Peter Baxter, MD EMEA, Yellowfin

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...