We use cookies and other similar technologies (Cookies) to enhance your experience and to provide you with relevant content and ads. By using our website, you are agreeing to the use of Cookies. You can change your settings at any time. Cookie Policy.

Business Intelligence Opportunities – A General Overview

Originally published September 23, 2008

If we think of business intelligence (BI) as business information and business analysis in support of fact-based decisions in the context of business processes that impact profits, it quickly becomes clear that business intelligence is a broad concept. The nature of business information varies along a number of dimensions, including whether the business information:

  • Is about current business transactions and status or about transactions that occurred and were closed out in prior months or years.

  • Is about the enterprise as a whole or about subunits of the organization such as strategic business units or functional departments.

  • Is about the company or about other entities in the value chain, such as customers and suppliers.

  • Is generated by a company’s internal information systems or whether it is obtained from external sources such as market research firms.

  • Is used for management processes, revenue generating processes, or operating processes.

  • Is detailed transactional information or summarized information about many transactions.

  • Is intended to be directly accessed by end users or whether it exists as input to simulations and models.

  • Is intended for power users, general users, or executives.

  • Is intended for broad distribution or for more limited role-based use.

  • Must be retained for legal or regulatory compliance purposes.

In addition to the wide range of types of business analyses, there is also a broad range of business analysis techniques that may be used alone or in combination with each other to support business analysis. The appropriateness of these techniques vary, based on the subject of analysis (e.g., data mining techniques applied to risk analysis in contrast to trend analysis applied to sales performance analysis). Figure 1 shows a sample list of analytical subjects and techniques.


Figure 1: Sample List of Analytical Subjects and Techniques

As Figure 1 suggests, there are many different possible combinations of types of business information and business analyses. Selecting the relevant business information and analyses is a function of the kinds of business decisions that must be supported by BI, which, in turn, is a function of the type of business process within which the BI will be deployed. Business decisions are generally classified as strategic, tactical, and operational, though, in practice, the distinctions can be blurred. These classifications tend to imply differences in:

  • The importance of the decision, with strategic decisions accorded greater importance.

  • The frequency or useful life of the decision, with strategic decisions having a life of several years or more and operational decisions being more frequent and shorter lived (e.g., what products and amounts will we produce this month).

  • The scope of the decision, with strategic decisions being associated with enterprise scope, tactical decisions being associated with departmental or functional scope, and operational decisions being associated with day-to-day business activities.

Business decisions also take place in the context of business processes, such as management processes, revenue generating processes, and operating processes. Depending on the process and whether the decisions to be made are strategic, tactical, or operational, different combinations of business information and business analyses will be appropriate. The general relationship between business decisions and business processes is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: The Relation Between Business Decisions and Business Processes

At the core of Figure 2 is a highly simplified representation of value chain business processes (i.e., supply chain processes, operating processes, customer relationship processes, management processes, intra-company processes, and support processes). In the context of these value chain processes, companies make a variety of decisions, shown in the arrows surrounding the core business processes. To illustrate, manufacturing companies make long-term, strategic decisions about supply chain and operational processes, such as the number and location of plants and distribution centers and investments in IT to enable planning and operational collaboration with suppliers. For a service company such as a bank, the long-term strategic decisions about supply chain and operational processes might address the question of whether to outsource check-clearing processes. In general, value chains differ by industry and product, and companies occupy different positions in those value chains. That being said, the value chain construct is very useful for stimulating thinking about BI opportunities.

Faced with the many combinations and permutations of business information, business analyses, and fact-based decisions that BI can deliver or support, we need a general framework that delineates the major types of BI opportunities that can be considered for inclusion in a given company’s BI portfolio. With such a framework, we can further stimulate our thinking about potential BI opportunities as we conduct an analysis of BI opportunities. Figure 3 presents some of the major types of BI opportunities, upon which companies in a variety of industries are capitalizing. 


Figure 3: Major Types of BI Opportunities and their Relation to Categories of Business Processes

What we see in Figure 3 is that BI opportunities can be segmented into three major business process categories: management processes, revenue generation processes, and operating processes. Within these major business process categories, proven BI opportunities are aligned with key business sub-processes, such as forecasting, customer segmentation, and order processing. While the exact way that a given company competing with a certain business design in a specific industry might design its BI applications will vary, the typical BI opportunities outlined here cut across industries. Further, while the business vocabulary of industries might vary, the need for management processes, revenue generating processes, and operating processes is a constant. Accordingly, we believe that starting with this list of BI opportunities can be useful when determining the specific BI opportunities your company should pursue.

This article is adapted from The Profit Impact of Business Intelligence by Steve and Nancy Williams.

  • Nancy WilliamsNancy Williams

    Nancy serves as Vice President for DecisionPath Consulting. Focusing her work on how business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW) can be leveraged to improve business performance, Nancy is a well-known industry educator, author, and practitioner. Nancy’s experience includes more than 25 years of business management and technical experience. She has been involved in numerous consulting engagements, providing expertise in the areas of BI/DW assessments, BI/DW strategy, portfolio development and roadmaps, BI/DW requirements and data modeling, and BI/DW project and program management. Nancy is a regular speaker and keynote presenter at TDWI industry events,  co-hosts the BI impact channel on the BeyeNETWORK, and is co-author of the highly rated book The Profit Impact of Business Intelligence. She received her MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. 

    Editor's Note: Visit Nancy and Steve Williams' BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel for more articles and resources as well as Nancy's blog.

  • Steve WilliamsSteve Williams
    Steve Williams is the President of DecisionPath Consulting. With more than 30 years of experience, he is a leading strategy consultant in the business intelligence (BI), analytics, and performance management fields. His clients have included Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Pinnacle Foods Group, Principal Financial Group, McCormick & Company, Toronto Hydro Electric System, and the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Social Security Administration. Steve is a frequent speaker on BI, analytics, performance management, and business strategy at a number of industry events. Steve holds an MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia and a BS in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.

Recent articles by Nancy Williams, Steve Williams



Want to post a comment? Login or become a member today!

Be the first to comment!