Business intelligence lies beyond IT: Dresner

"Business intelligence" has been perverted over time by vendors trying to find new ways to market their products, according to the man who coined the term.In 1989, then Gartner analyst Howard Dresner came up with "business intelligence" to describe how end users could access and analyse information stored on their company systems in order to provide a better understanding of the business and its customer.

"Business intelligence" has been perverted over time by vendors trying to find new ways to market their products, according to the man who coined the term.

In 1989, then Gartner analyst Howard Dresner came up with "business intelligence" to describe how end users could access and analyse information stored on their company systems in order to provide a better understanding of the business and its customer.

This week, Dresner told ZDNet Australia that business intelligence needs to move beyond IT in order to be truly effective: "I defined it as an umbrella term to describe how end users access and analyse structured content or data ... lots of things fit in under that description but a lot of the vendors, bless their souls, have taken it in a different direction and limited it to query and reporting tools ... [the phrase] has been perverted over time."

Dresner said that in the present day, true business intelligence comes from having a complete view of an organisation -- not just a small section, such as its customers or IT systems.

"Some CRM vendors have suggested that they can give you a 360 degree view of your customer. Ok well how many degrees of my business is that? Is it 90 degrees? Is it 110 degrees? I want a 360 degree view of my business -- it goes well beyond the customer".

Last year, Dresner left Gartner to become chief strategy officer at Hyperion, a firm that specialises in "business performance management" solutions, which is what he believes will be the next phase of business intelligence.

Dresner describes how business intelligence in the present day should allow an enterprise to be flexible enough to deal with "silly things" that happen on a daily basis instead of simply reporting the problems.

"Marketing comes up with a wonderful campaign and they don't tell anybody. It was a great campaign but nobody told manufacturing and they don't have enough staffing and nobody told HR and all of a sudden what could have been a very successful campaign turns into a customer satisfaction nightmare," said Dresner.

Business performance management allows an enterprise to set out its plans for the year but also allows the organisation to better deal with the unexpected.

"What I am talking about is how much do I think I am going to sell, how much do I think I am going to make, what sort of marketing campaigns am I going to run and what are the associated metrics -- how many people am I going to hire. What are we expecting as an enterprise that we are going to do next year," said Dresner.

The next phase is to link all that information together: "It is about linking all these things together. Not just business intelligence -- which is the measurement side of it. How do we plan as an enterprise, not just budget because budgeting is very limiting,' he said.

"It has to be fluid -- unless we are completely brilliant or in a market that is completely stagnant. We make assumptions and we will be wrong but we need to build in the ability to be wrong.... That is the difference between performance measurement and performance management," added Dresner.

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