I recently taught a business intelligence (BI) fundamentals class that included a discussion of the three distinct types of BI - strategic, tactical and operational. To gauge the knowledge level of the audience, I asked how many of them were using their data warehouses for anything other than strategic BI. I got a smattering of hands. A question on the definition of each type brought responses such as "strategic BI sets organizational direction, tactical BI fosters achieving tactics and operational BI is used on the front line." While these answers might have been technically correct, they were far less than illuminating. When I asked for examples of a BI application used to set direction versus one that fosters tactics, I drew blank stares.
This exchange made me realize that it might be nice to distinguish strategic, tactical and operational BI. Probing beneath the surface yields concepts not as intuitive as the names might imply. It is important to understand the differences because each type has a different audience, a different requirement for data currency and a different business purpose. While your BI program might eventually address all three types, it is quite likely that you will focus on a single BI type at first. Many organizations begin with a specific business user and match the BI type to the needs of that user. Evolution to the other types of BI applications comes only as the BI user base expands to incorporate users with different needs.
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