IT’s role in Business Intelligence

There’s a bit of an inter-continental scramble for Business Intelligence at the moment, and it’s not hard to understand why. With the recent global economic lockdown, as well as the massive shifts in the very nature of business, the rise of e-commerce and the hugely disruptive ramifications for employment, Business Intelligence is demanding a premium right now. It’s a reality that’s unlikely to change going forward.

What exactly do we consider as Business Intelligence (BI)? 

Legacy descriptions are still valid, even though the sources and applications of BI might be completely different in the digital age. BI involves using a set of techniques that together derive and collate data that inform business decision making. Although old school depictions of BI were convoluted, modern intelligence gathering is positively complex by comparison. That said, the modern tools available to gather data that constitute BI are also remarkably more comprehensive and refined, in both behavior and focus.  

The somewhat panicked escalation of BI into the upper echelon of business imperatives began some time ago, prior even to previously unseen phenomenon like the recent cessation of global trade, and the tremendous automation and facilitation (and unemployment) heralded by the IoT. An uncertain future has become the only overriding certainty, with some strange implications, especially for the middle-aged working world. 

From schooling being (essentially) a preparation for a preset world of work – with a touch of creative arts thrown in as a nod to producing well-rounded people – creativity has risen to the top of the pile in education. Facing an uncertain future, the only logical response from education has been to insist on developing people’s creative spirit. It’s perhaps not yet mainstream and still the preserve of progressive institutions, but creativity is deemed essential for young people entering a world of work wholly changed from the paradigm of the Industrial Revolution. 

Back then, producing good artisans, managers, lawyers, and accountants sewed up all the flaps of commerce and industry. Today’s exponential advancements in AI and robotics have blown the lid off employment along the lines of such staid working lives. No one is sacred in the 4IR – everyone from the CEO down to the office cleaner might be rendered obsolete within five years or so. Likewise, Business Intelligence has rapidly evolved from fairly formulaic templates to hitherto unseen complexity. Throwing uncertainty into the BI mix makes for so many more possible outcomes, too – how exactly does one go about making business decisions for future profitability, when the future is largely unknown?

IT gives a BI template

IT support is now inseparable from BI, in part simply because this is the digital age, and partly due to the very nature of tech itself. Computing in its essence is very much a detailed amalgamation of inputs that perform as data or functions, which are productively employed by people. The mathematical logic of the tech era is built into its fiber, no puns intended. The tools, apps, and combinations of tools and apps spawned post-2000 have made the tool set of BI incredibly complex, while also allowing for mining that complexity to a far deeper and more accurate degree.

Analytics as a pursuit has become not a matter of whether it should be incorporated into business, but rather how best to focus it and to what extent – at least for progressive businesses with an eye on the future. While the CEO wouldn’t have asked the fax repairman to plot the future of the company in the 90s, the guy trying to find corrupted Windows files in the modern office has become the go-to person to start the process of amalgamating BI. Indeed, IT support’s stock just keeps rising, as it’s IT support that builds, installs and manages a company’s digital processes and overall IP in 2020. BI is now always a gathering of data from digital tools, manifestations and applications in the modern era, and IT support has thus come to play the role of trusted confidant – an advisor to the emperor – in the current business arena.

As the IoT and IIoT unfolds, that role is simply going to deepen and become more essential than ever. No matter the nature of business of any company one looks at, digital channels and digital tools now constitute BI. Since the world is only set to become more digitized, with greater and more intelligent tech in play, smart business has cottoned onto the far greater role IT support can play in building BI. This is only logical, when one considers that BI is being built with digital tools that lend themselves to incredibly detailed analytics, in a highly digitized and evolving landscape, that will itself progress into an even more highly evolved tech era.

What does a company do with BI? 

In a nutshell, it plans for future profitability. It seeks out trends and (profitable) turns in the road that spell out which way things are going on all relevant fronts likely to impact the business’ performance. Small wonder that IT advancement and BI’s essential nature are rising in tandem. It’s a two-step now common to proactive business, one that constantly throws up a tremendous array of new insights, while also very often narrowing risk, all the while pinpointing exact returns on potential choices being made now about the future.

IT needs to be given the BI mandate

Smart enterprise gets IT support firmly tied into the BI portfolio. While what the business hopes to achieve going forward needs to be dictated by the managers or owners of a company, from that initial brief, IT support needs to be mandated to build the tools that will best serve those future aims. Very much as company heads might brief a group of marketing creatives prior to a campaign, business leaders need to ensure massive IT inclusion in planning for the future of any modern company. Indeed, even the validity, possible shortfalls and likely profitability of the aims themselves become the domain of IT support in this scenario.

Dark data is useless data; hence the massive proliferation of data being made possible by the IoT needs to be carefully extrapolated and evaluated for inclusion in the BI summary. If that sounds like an IT function, it’s because it is. Going full circle, the IT department or service provider could foreseeably begin to state the aims of a company, rather than take passive instruction from the top down. It’s the evolution of tech support into business prophecy, and it’s unfolding rapidly in dynamic business environments everywhere.

While this might all sound eminently logical to some, it’s remarkable how often the legacy structure of IT ‘support’ is still manifest in boardrooms across the globe. IT needs to be taken out of its silo – it’s no longer merely a support function – and interwoven and unambiguously mandated to maintain business fitness and engineer current realities towards future profitability.

Ryan Kh