FEB 23, 2010 5:11pm ET

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The boundaries of what is or isn't business intelligence software seems to be moving all the time. Visualization, integration, spreadsheet tools are all part of the mix; for many it's performance management as well. Throw in dedicated hardware. software or analytics as a service, cloud, Web crawlers and you see a lot of products on the market busy distilling and reporting on information -- and I haven't even mentioned a database.

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Comments (4)
In my view the most important component of BI is neither hardware nor software. It has to do with resolution of data element definitions and their organization and presentation strategy; no software can do this other than support the processes of thinking this through.
Posted by David S | Wednesday, February 24 2010 at 1:06PM ET
This is an excellent question as it seems to constantly plague those of us in the industry. The definition of business intelligence does not come from a pick list of software or hardware feature / functions. When we take that approach we introduce confusion into "what is BI?". BI software vendors do all that they can to sell their products to business executives all over the world. In essence they'll say almost anything to differentiate themselves to make the sale - in some cases using terminology and phrasing that paints a distorted picture from what most of us see as Business Intelligence. Sadly it's the customers - senior management, executives, those will little to no BI background that make the purchasing decision and in turn fixate on feature/function as the mode of defining BI. I too was at one time guilty of this mistake; however over the 20 plus years of consulting in business intelligence I have come to define BI to my customers as "A function of business". Business Intelligence is as Accounting is, or HR, or Facilities Management. These departments are not front line revenue generating business functions, but necessary discernable functions of business none-the-less. When we think of business intelligence in these terms and clear our heads of the techno-babble, the definition of BI comes into focus. BI is not part of IT. It carries with it strong demands on and ties to IT, more so than other business functions. The BI Department provides information analytic services and products to the organization. The tools and technologies required to do so depend upon the business in question and maturity of technology supportable by the IT department. It may be best to separate the "I" from the "T" in IT to help further clarify this. Sadly, most people who would respond to the question "What is BI?" will wander towards a more technical debate. This persona has been established by those that benefit most from this - BI software vendors.
Posted by Michael M | Thursday, February 25 2010 at 9:27AM ET
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