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Beyond Typical Business Intelligence

NWC GUEST COLUMN

We're so busy maintaining our users' databases and reacting to the vagaries of the business (sometimes called "alignment of IT with the business") that many of us haven't realized we've automated most of the organization's operations and we're now sitting on a data gold mine.

This has led to a mini-growth industry in business intelligence tools--those that create pie charts, dashboards, cubes and the like. But, at best, the knowledge delivered by these tools can be shallow; at worst, the results can be misleading because these tools don't usually take into account the interaction of different factors.

And these BI tools put an unfair burden on users. Although the business operations staff is knowledgeable about what they're doing in their own domains, their knowledge is imperfect. They know what they and others in their field have done. But some of what they believe may not be validated by the data--conventional wisdom isn't always right.

Moreover, some of what they know may not be refined enough. They may know that A, B and C are important factors affecting revenue, but not know the relative importance of each, so they could end up focusing on the weakest of the three.

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