What is Cloud Business Intelligence?
Business intelligence is a funny thing. The vast majority of companies engage in business intelligence in one form or another, yet if you ask 100 people what it is, 99 can’t tell you. As a provider of cloud business intelligence and BI consulting I figure LeapFrogBI has some responsibility to educate folks. So here goes…
Let’s start with plain old “business intelligence” before we complicate things with words like “cloud” or acronyms like “BIaaS”.
What, Exactly, is Business Intelligence?
As mentioned, outside of the business intelligence field there is a lack of understanding about what business intelligence, or BI, is. We believe this stems in part from confusion within the industry. Different software vendors and practitioners use the term to mean different things. Some use the term to refer to the entire spectrum of tools and activities related to enabling high-performance reporting. Others insist the term should only be used to refer to the process of visualizing data in reports, or the tools like Tableau and Power BI that assist with this process.
At LeapFrogBI we prefer the broader interpretation of the term. We explain it like this…
Your business changes constantly. To understand it you need to be able to monitor it constantly as well. Yet, for most, this is a challenge. The promise of making well-informed decisions remains trapped in the data. Reporting is more a fire drill than a function. Managers are driving blind.
“Business intelligence is the practice of preparing and transforming data into useful information in a systematic way.”
Companies engaged in business intelligence can manage and optimize their entire business by the numbers on a daily basis, with an almost crystal ball-like ability to spot opportunities and potential problems far in advance.
How is business intelligence accomplished?
Most executives and managers readily understand that reporting is difficult because data isn’t perfect. But those who aren’t writing the SQL queries or performing the required Excel heroics may lack a clear understanding of the specific data issues that cause this difficulty, and wonder why it’s so hard to overcome them.
Data challenges may include the need to denormalize, solve for missing data, filter invalid data, reconstitute historical data and integrate different sources and data formats. In simple terms, raw data must prepared before it can be used for reporting.
As mentioned, business intelligence is the practice of preparing the data for reporting in a systematic way. This involves a series of steps that result in a technical solution capable of automatically acquiring, preparing and visualizing the data. The technical solution typically includes a data solution (or database) hosted in a data center, ETL software (which runs the algorithms that transform the data) and visualization software. Arriving at this solution requires specialized skills like dimensional data modelling, ETL development and report authoring.
As the available data changes or the reporting requirements change, the technical solution must be modified accordingly. For this reason, among others, business intelligence should be considered a core business function and utilize an agile development approach. Many companies attempt to treat business intelligence like a one-time project and this invariably ends in frustration for everyone involved.
Cloud business intelligence, equally misunderstood.
Given the confusion about what business intelligence means, it should be little surprise that no seems to be able to agree on the meaning of “cloud business intelligence”.
Software vendors whose tools assist with data preparation or data visualization, and who make these tools available in the cloud, often refer to themselves as “cloud BI” vendors. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it can cause confusion because, as mentioned, software is only one part of any business intelligence solution.
If business intelligence involves software, infrastructure and the services of trained professionals to customize the solution, then cloud business intelligence must also include all three of these components. In other words…
“Cloud business intelligence is the practice of preparing and transforming data into useful information in a systematic way that utilizes an off-premise data solution in the cloud.”
Like other cloud services, it may be made available by subscriptions of varying terms. But unlike typical cloud offerings that can be configured by the business user, cloud business intelligence must include the necessary services component to be complete.
Of course, this is just our opinion, and some will surely disagree with this line of thinking. Hopefully our reasoning makes sense to you and you’ll find these definitions helpful as you navigate the wonderful world of business intelligence.
Learn about LeapFrogBI Cloud Business Intelligence™, our complete solution that includes all services, software and hosting for one low monthly price.
Speak with us
We’re always glad to discuss BI, answer questions and meet new people involved with the practice. You can reach us from 8am-6pm Pacific time at 1-833-BI-READY.