Thomas.I Microsoft BI & Analytics

A Site Dedicated to General BI Issues and MS BI Issues: Architecture and Technology

What is business intelligence?

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on January 5, 2008

It is a new year and time to reflect on what i have been working with and the strategic ideas behind that.  My daily work consist of coding and the creation of SSRS reports, SSAS cubes, SSIS packages, TSQL and MDX-scripts. I also have the opportunity to talk with end users and their requirements and thoughts. Most of what I have been writing about here are questions that have occured when end users start to browse cubes with a tool like ProClarity or Excel.

The flow of new technique and products is so large nowadays so you have very limited time to think about the strategic impact of what you are doing. Am I delivering business intelligence in my daily work or do I deliver something of doubtful value? Business Intelligence can mean different things to different peoples but one thing is sure, it is never about technology. Technology can help end users to create business intelligence in an organization.

ProClarity was a supplier of software that Microsoft bought almost two years ago. One of the great things with this company was their reflections and ideas of what BI means and I have saved some slides from different presentations their people have published during the years. I have tried to reconstruct the idea of BI from an end user perspective and how different groups of people use information differently in an organisation.

 What is BI

What this triangle tries to show is that different groups of workers have different needs and requirements. A very general rule that I use is to differentiate between groups that spend most of their working hours on collecting and analysing data and the groups that do not(executives, sales staff, workers).

I worked for a manufacturing company that used SQL Server and ProClarity as the single tool for using the data warehouse. The business analysts were not educated on the tool so they had to start with educating themselves. Sales staff also directed to use ProClarity for getting information about their sales, budgets and customers. The benefit for this company was only that people attended meetings with the same data from the data warehouse and AS2000 cubes. Were we delivering BI with this approach? Hardly!

Later the analysts where educated on ProClarity. We built dashboards with KPI:s for management and for people in the production plant. For the sales staff we built reports in SSRS with their customers, products sold and actual/budget data. Sales staff choose their parameter values and exported the report to excel on their laptops. After this change and when a batch job for the data warehouse failed our phones got hot when people started to call for their data.

Another ProClarity slide that I have saved distinguish between "Information delivery" and "Understanding" both parts of a BI-strategy:


  • Information delivery or Reporting
    •  Broadcasting, publishing and communicating
  • Analysis or understanding
    • Examination, breakdown and inspection

A succesful BI solution covers both these areas and is used frequently in an organization.


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