How is your business intelligence (BI) investment in your company? What's the maturity of your BI architecture and processes? After many years of hard work of building BI infrastructure and its related programs and processes, many businesses try to measure their ROI and compare their BI programs to others. Many approaches and matrixes currently in the market measure BI maturity level for BI investment. Interestingly, there is another way, which I think worth it to explore. As the topic of knowledge management starts to become hot in the industry, I am wondering, can we measure BI's maturity level from that perspective? Here, I present four levels from the knowledge management view to measure BI maturity: data, information, knowledge and wisdom.

Figure 1: BI Maturity Hierarchy Model


Here are the basic definitions for these four levels of BI practice.

Data Level

At this stage, business is just collecting raw business data, cleansing it, standardizing it, integrating it among different source systems and storing it in a searchable format. The business might query data from an IT perspective to show data balance control and quality level, but just a few text and numeric fields in a big data repository. The objective of this level is to provide an integrated, cleansed, high quality data repository in a queryable and useable format. This is the starting point of the data warehouse and BI. If you stay at this level, your ROI will be almost zero. However, without it, you cannot climb up to the next level.

Information Level

At this level, BI is starting to leverage the integrated, good quality data and put it in the right context, such as creating business reports and slicing and dicing the data to show different views of data. As businesses move to the advanced stage of this level, they could be creating business KPIs and showing them in dashboards through the Web so that the information about business performance and activities is clear and easy to read and understand. In general, this is the stage business start to leverage their data assets and apply them to the right context, translating data into meaningful, useful information.

Knowledge Level

Knowledge is where we receive, absorb and understand information. From it, we find the causes and notice the patterns that we can apply to business, thus allowing the business to make decisions, form judgments, shape opinions or make forecasts. In general, data leads to information and information leads to knowledge.

This level is also known as application by perceptual experience, reasoning with the information displayed on the screen. At this stage, BI will work on patterns and perform cause analysis to help businesses find root causes for some trends so that the knowledge can be applied to business processes. The advanced level of this stage is building an expert system to integrate all discrete knowledge together and deduct new knowledge based on past collected knowledge. This system will help to explain new information and provide guidelines to businesses to make smart, timely decisions and thus gain a competitive advantage over other organizations and competitors.

Wisdom Level

This is the highest level everyone wishes to be. Businesses should be empowered to apply their knowledge and change their business processes. Business productivity should be dramatically improved. People should make sound, timely and effective business decisions so that their business will gain great competitive advantages over their competitors regarding time to deliver, meeting product targets and services quality.

An old Chinese proverb said, " Knowing yourself and knowing your competitors will make you always win." Knowing your current BI maturity level is the just first step so you can take actions and make a plan to improve it. Even if you are at wisdom level, the world is still changing and you still have room to improve.

In the end, BI is a good tool; the key is, do you use it wisely?

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