If we’re going to have an intelligent conversation, we need to define our terms. One term that I use often is a particular challenge:
“Business Intelligence” is a buzz-phrase that means different things to different people. When I say “Business Intelligence” I mean providing information to inform decisions. Business Intelligence is the application of the scientific method to everyday operations. Whether we’re talking about the Shewhart Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle, Six Sigma‘s Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control process, or Lean Manufacturing, any functional method of improvement depends on systematic measurement. Business Intelligence is collecting, analysing, and distributing those measurements. So my definition of Business Intelligence includes visualisations, reporting, and data warehousing.
Business Intelligence also extends beyond measuring your internal processes, it also includes understanding the external factors that impact those processes. Hubbard emphasizes reduction in uncertainty as the key activity. Often that involves finding external data and doing original research, which is the activity that Business Intelligence shares with military intelligence.
Machine learning and analytics are also part of my definition of Business Intelligence. Computers are really good at doing maths. And decision making is always about the future. Data mining for patterns and making predictions are the keys to success for organisations today.
I know that some people say Business Intelligence doesn’t include reporting, or that it doesn’t include machine learning. I’m going to use it as an umbrella-term covering my field of practise.