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June 2013

Questions and problems at the heart of data use

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Companies are adopting business intelligence strategies at a rapid pace. There is pressure to go this route – if all of a firm's rivals begin using data to improve decisions, the slow-to-adapt business may realize its own intuition-driven methods are outdated.  Of course, blindly adopting any technology can be a problem. IT for its own sake is not always helpful. Firms need to think about their own unique use cases for programs like big data-enabled business intelligence and adopt them in ways that make sense for that unique organization. While the hype proclaiming BI and big data the "next big thing" is not wrong, heeding it without thinking is pointless.

Identifying use cases
Entrepreneur recently spoke to BI firm CEO Anukool Lakhina about what companies should do to become better with their information. He reminded the source that the ultimate goal of such projects is to respond to conditions in real time. Advanced, modern analytics applications have taken the age-old model of generating insights based on collected data and made it bigger and faster than it has ever been. Instead of a few structured databases, leaders now have access to the width and breadth of their information resources. Lakhina also stated that figuring out which new data sources to mine and which are already available is a priority.

The guiding force behind improved BI performance begins with decisions made at the onset of projects. Lakhina told Entrepreneur that businesses' problems and issues are at the heart of design. He stated that these elements can be simple and modest. Leaders can really focus on anything that needs to be done and make accomplishing that a priority. This alone will answer several bothersome questions about what to collect and how to analyze it. The answer is simply to focus on elements that will solve the problem rather than building a complex system and hoping there is something it can address.

Willing to pursue analytics
Chief financial officers are taking the reins when it comes to technology procurement. This should not stop the rise of business intelligence, though, according to Gartner. The research organization recently found that improving decisions through the use of analytics was chosen as the most glaring IT need by a group of CFOs. Gartner research vice president John van Decker reported that the financial executives largely gave similar responses to previous editions of the survey, and that their powerful enthusiasm for business intelligence and data-based problem solving is not a new phenomenon.

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