One of the major take away items, for me, at last week's MicroStrategy World conference, was the broader scope of business intelligence. In my mind, because of what I'd been exposed to, I thought business intelligence was all about getting your data to the point where you could then design a report to present that data in an intelligent way. I thought that MicroStrategy was a tool for designing and developing reports that answered business questions.
Two companies at the conference exposed me to how much broader the scope of business intelligence is. I'm talking about BigDataLabs and Visual Crossing. The offerings these two companies have brought to market, that build off of the MicroStrategy platform highlight that business intelligence is realized in the way you visualize the data & information. In my strategic consulting work, I often work with clients to look at IT differently. Often, industry groups that I haven't worked with before want me to participate to bring a fresh perspective to things that they have already been looking at. Visualization of data is much the same thing; a different perspectives causes you to suddenly see something you hadn't seen before.
Let me give you an example that really struck a chord for me. One of Visual Crossing's customers, Con-Way, a shipping company, spoke at one of the sessions I attended. The person talked about all the data they had on hand with regards to their routes. By looking at the data itself, say in tables or some report, it was difficult to extract the intelligence that lay inherently in what they had collected. By leveraging Visual Crossing with MicroStrategy, that shipping route data was visualized on a map. From the audience, even I could tell, staring at the map, that there were inefficiencies in how the freight was being transported. By seeing this data, Con-Way was able to make intelligent, informed modifications to their shipping routes. A second slide showed data collected after the changes and again, you could see the way freight was being moved was now much more efficient. Visually, the information just jumped out at you. That was business intelligence!!
Over the course of the several days down at World I saw other examples of how this mapping technology , coupled with a companies data (and perhaps coupled with other outside data such as weather, demographic, etc) you would truly be transforming information into intelligence that gave you real business insight. Insight is what you are after and getting there means moving beyond just reports.