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2013: Business Intelligence Dawns on The CIO

Eric Ernest | Jan. 21, 2013
In today's fast-paced digital age, given the amount and the rate of data generation, it is incumbent on enterprises to use data to gain insights and stay one step ahead of the competition. Fortunately, CIOs are stepping up to the challenge.

The Report Mentality

Another thing that CIOs who want to implement business intelligence should be prepared for is expectation management. And that leads to another challenge: The confusion over what BI really is. "Most of the time, BI is misinterpreted as MIS. BI is not just reports, BI is beyond reports," says Veneeth Purushotaman, business head, technology & supply chain, HyperCity Retail.

"The biggest challenge (in a BI implementation) is setting the right expectation. People interpret BI as reports. That is the first disconnect, as with that interpretation comes the interpretation of granularity. People interpret reports at the highest granularity. BI cannot be at the highest granularity, it has to be arrived at the highest granularity," says Purushothaman.

What he means is that the performance of a BI solution will degrade, as the granularity of the information that is requested increases, leading to a point where performance could fall below a user's expectations--if they aren't expecting it.

The reporting mentality is not easy to get away from given how entrenched Excel is within most organizations. According to CIO research, the majority of Indian organizations, 74 percent, use spreadsheets or Excel to share BI or analytical insights.

What is it Good For?

Trying to gain a deeper insight into data can be quite problematic for a number of reasons. First, there are the various departments within an enterprise, each with its siloed data. So, when making reports the MIS team will have to work through Excel and this leads to a situation where, as Purushotaman puts it, " there are multiple versions of the truth, none that tally with another."

In Agrawal's case, the request to get a report on a certain category of information would be done as and when requested, in an adhoc manner. "We didn't have much historical MIS analysis available on the fly. For example, there was no easy way for management to know the rate at which cargo imports/exports were growing or trends in passenger loads. Normally the MIS team worked manually with Excel sheets and prepared graphs as required. This is the background to us creating a dashboard for senior management with all the data coming together in ways that were easy to slice and dice," says Agrawal.

For Purushotaman, the fact that a lot of reports were Excel-based, which raise security concerns because they could be copied, was an issue that was identified for resolution by opting for BI solution.

Another benefit of using BI is that it gives users "the freedom to make whatever report they want," says Purushotaman. But the biggest benefit of using BI, according to Purushotaman, is that "by having a data warehouse you get to put out one version of the truth; a single version of truth that everyone sees. When you have MIS there are Excel sheets sitting at very employees system and there are a million versions of the same data."


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