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What makes business intelligence different from business espionage, and what makes BI intelligent?

  • May 11 2006, 1:00am EDT

Q: What makes business intelligence different from business espionage? What are the key elements in business intelligence? What makes the business intelligence "intelligent"?

Anne Marie Smith's Answer:

Let's look at the definitions of "intelligence" and "espionage." As defined by Merriam-Webster, intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge to change one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests), also the act of understanding. "Espionage" is the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company. From these definitions it appears as if one could infer that "business intelligence" is directed at your own organization (what is the company doing that could be changed to improve its ability to function in the environment), while espionage is directed outside the organization to those companies that are in competition with your organization. "Espionage" also implies the act of gathering information that is not readily or openly available, whereas business intelligence focuses on making better use of the readily available data within your organization or readily available in the marketplace.

Business intelligence (BI) uses knowledge management, data warehousing, data mining and business analysis to identify, track and improve key processes and data, as well as identify and monitor trends in corporate, competitor and market performance.

Finally, what makes business intelligence "intelligent"? The use of the human power for reasoning and deduction from facts and data, along with the human ability to infer a generalized conclusion from particular instances (induction). Without humans, there is no "intelligent" business.

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