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Business Intelligence: Data and information coupled with knowledge and understanding

1 April 2012
Ella Antes

How does a manager's daily routine begin in the world of sales? Report reviewing. Lines and lines of meticulously detailed documentation of sales quantity, who sold what product, was this a private market sale or a business market sale, in what geographical area was this sale performed, what other benefits were granted as part of this sale, etc.

 These reports undoubtedly provide the manager with lots of numbers, data and information; indeed, much information. Advanced technology enables managers in organizations to receive accessible data and information; this fact has definitely revolutionized the world of management, especially sales management.

A diligent manager going over the entire long report for over an hour, what does he/she understand? What would he/she do with all of these stats and data tomorrow? In a week? A month? What does this actually mean? The answers to these questions lay in the field of BI. According to Brian Canning, BI refers to:

  • Processes that collect data and present updated, concise and useful operational information.

  • Better business decision making based on all data and information collected by the organization.

  • Ability to respond to trends and opportunities the market presents.


In practice, there is little difference between accumulating a vast amount of data and information and not possessing any data or information.

Business Intelligence is useful only when it is operational; only when the forest can be viewed beyond all the trees.

Back to the aforementioned manager. What business decision can he/she make after scanning the report? Can he/she deduce from the data that one product is more on demand than others? Does he/she know which "product" to promote and whether it is currently in stock? Can he/she respond in real time to a decline in sales in the northern region due to a local discount offered by competition?

Before delving into what this data may or may not represent, it is first vital to understand: who are the clients? What are their needs? What ability does the organization possess to cope with the challenges in answering these needs? What are the organization's administrative priorities?

Business Intelligence is a process of massive data collection via interaction with clients/surveys, stock status, human resources, financial reports, etc. in order to make the best strategic decisions based on the best data available to the organization coupled with abilities to respond in real-time.

Business Intelligence is above all knowledge and understanding, which is markedly more than solely data.


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