Is Business Intelligence (BI) using Analytics the Edge which helps CIO move closer to Business?

By Lalit Popli, Head of Information Technology, ICICI Prudential AMC

One of the common complaints that we keep hearing from the CXO suite is that the technical teams sit in their Ivory Tower and do not understand the business needs. The current reality is far from such scenario, however it will take an involvement of the CIO in helping the business grow business with the vast experience at his/ her disposal to change this myth. But the moot question here is how will the CIO get involved in the business in a non threating manner and still help the business team to grow their business and/or help them using the data to come up with niche markets, newer opportunities etc.? Would the Business Intelligence using Analytics be the edge which the CIO’s have been looking for to make a much more positive impact on the bussiness goal of the organisation and shatter the myth that CIO’s are only Technical person whose job is to keep the show going. Can the CIO’s start making a positive impact and come closer to running the business in the background and thus become integral part of the business delivery model.?

To look at above questions let us rewind to a time before computers when business intelligence first started making impact. In fact, let’s go back as far as 1865. According to the article History of BI, the term “business intelligence” first appeared in Richard Millar Devens Cyclopaedia of Commercial and Business Anecdotes in that year.

Devens used the term to talk about how a banker named Sir Henry Fumese used “business intelligence” to gain a leg up on his competitors. Through careful study, Fumese gained knowledge of the political issues, risks, and general market conditions of the time.

Fast-forward to the twentieth century when BI really started to gain recognition and momentum.

Before computers arrived, data was stored in files inside filing cabinets. That is until 1956, when IBM invented the hard disk drive. Data was stored in disks, but it was too risky and difficult to manage. Then Edgar Codd invented the database in 1969. This provided a new way to store data, but only those with a lot of expertise were able to access it.

Business tools were created in the 1970s to help manage data in databases. They provided an easier way to enter data into the database. But access was still not easy since data was coming from multiple sources. They tried accessing data with reports, but they were one dimensional and provided access in silos, meaning that the data came out fragmented. It was impossible to root of the issue.

Data warehouses were created to try to solve this. Ralph Kimball and Bill Inmon made data warehouses popular in the early 1980s. The data warehouse provided a way to take different data sources and store them in one place. Now the data could be organized, managed and accessed.The term BI was coined by Howard Dresner in 1989.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the number of BI vendors mushroomed. More and more companies were starting to understand the true value of the BI, and how it could help them come up with new insights.

And with that understanding and prioritization of BI in the workplace, the push came for users of all technical abilities to be able to self-serve — to access, gather, and analyze the data they needed to do their jobs. The Vendors in the space delivered products and solutions which could be used easily. Users could now be more self-sufficient with tools that were easier to use, and that provided the functionality they required to nimbly gather data and form insights.

Today Business intelligence combines a broad set of applications in the area of data analysis. This includes ad hoc anlaytics and quering, enterprise reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), mobile BI, real-time BI, operational BI, cloud and software-as-a-service BI and locational intelligence.

BI technology also included data visualization software for designing charts and other infographics. In addition to the same there are tools for building dashboards and performance scorecards that display visualized data on business metrics and other parameters that you may want to track and present in an easy-to-grasp way. These dashboards and scorecards are easy to develop as well.

BI programs are most likely to incorporate forms of advanced analytics, such as data mining, voice analytics, predictive analytics, text mining, image analysis, statistical analysis and big data analytics.

Business intelligence data is typically stored in a data warehouse or in smaller data marts that hold subsets of a company's information. In addition to this data, Hadoop systems are now increasingly being used as repositories for unstructured data, log files, sensor data and other types of big data which due to increased compute power is able to give deeper insights into the data.

All the above is possible with the help of Technology and Technology Department only and this is the edge which the CIO’s have. Being the repository of the Data they are in an enviable position of having access to this data and if they are able to link this access with knowledge of the domain and the context of their business, they can provide lot of insights and help to their counterparts in Sales, Marketing, Controls etc. and thus help them create new products, services, get new customers etc. They can then be a part of the business rather than the support and this is the Edge they have and can making such transformation will move them from Chief Information Officer to Chief Intelligent Officer.

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