Business Intelligence (BI) is the means to turn the mountains of
data already held within your organisation into meaningful information.
Armed with this information about your customers you are then better
able to provide new and enhanced products and services to meet their
needs more effectively.
BI covers a whole host of technologies from the data warehouse
(the bedrock of any BI system), the data extraction and cleaning
tools, through to the tools used to exploit the data.
Calling a Spade, a Spade?
Since 1999 the term Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has
also been applied to these types of systems. BI & CRM are really
the latest name for ideas that have been around for a couple of
decades: Enterprise databases, Management/Executive Information
Systems, Decision Support Systems.
The other related terms are:
- data mart: originally a subset of a data warehouse, with data
targeted at a specific department, e.g. Marketing or Finance
- operational data store: a slightly contradictory term, referring
to a data warehouse that has transactional contents as well as
In many respects, these different terms are being made redundant,
as the data warehouse becomes an integrated part of the corporate
systems. Whilst a warehouse is rarely as sensitive to downtime as
your front office, call-centre or web site systems, it has, nonetheless,
become a mission-critical component without which the business is
starved of vital information.
What is important is not the name technology that
allows you to serve your customers, and therefore your organisation
and its stakeholders, better.
Recently there's been an increasing interest in
technologies that allow the study of how visitors interact with
web sites, commonly called "click-stream" analysis (in
today's internet world this is sometimes called "e-CRM").
Analyzing web activity provides an understanding of customer behaviour
and interest and gives a dynamic picutre of how these may change.
Click stream analysis started by processing the
log files generated by the web servers to identify which pages have
been requested. However, this technique has many limitations, not
least the very loose relaltionship between page views and users.
Web sites that are driven by customer-centric databases are rapidly
superseding it. To see more about how to build a database-powered
web site see www.veriton.net.
How do you build a
Business Intelligence system?