The term Business Intelligence solution can be a deceiving one. Many software solutions that call themselves BI can actually only offer you half of what you need.
Here it’s important to make the distinction between two types of business analysis and intelligence tools: end-to-end solutions and ones that are merely front-end. An end-to-end solution is made up of a platform back-end, basically, the tools and algorithms that handle preparing all the data, and a front-end that creates data visualizations and dashboard reporting.
While we like to see our data in easy to handle visualizations, platforms that only give you this are not enough to get real insights from your company’s data. With data visualization tools, as you can imagine from their name, you don’t have all the initial, background stages of preparing and joining the data. This means that users need to first have data that can be fed into the software, i.e. a pre-made central database.
When it comes to enterprise needs, the difference between these two types of software, are strikingly clear. It’s also clear that visualizations, though important, cannot be the sole component of powerful Business Intelligence software.
Dashboards are deceivingly simple and most users take for granted all the work that goes on behind the scenes to clean and link up the normally vast amounts of data that go into business reports. With lower quality data or data that is spread out over many disparate platforms and databases, even more, work must be done to create a base from which to start analyzing. At the end of the day, preparing data for analysis can take up to 80% of the time devoted to a typical project.
For the purpose of effective analysis you first need to have all your data in one central place so that you have a single version of the truth to work from. You also want to be able to update and change it, while still being able to use the same source. Unfortunately creating a data repository for a business today isn’t so simple.
The sheer number of platforms and software tools that companies use to collect data, from Excel to Salesforce, to Google Analytics to CRM software, makes it almost impossible to manually go through and create one database. In addition, with all this disparate sources and users, misnamed, outdated, and messy data are unavoidable.
With tools that lack the built-in back-end components to automatically do the syncing and cleaning process, you can be sure you’ll be spending ages just trying to figure out what’s going on with any report. You’ll end up either having to repeat the same work every time you add new data, or even investing in other software to do it for you. A lot of the time you just won’t be able to get into the really interesting insights.