How to BI: Part 1


Once you go BI, you never go back.

I wrote a couple papers on how to do reporting at the enterprise level, and the issue I kept coming back to was the idea that BI or Business Intelligence should never be done in a silo. Anyone that does reporting should have an idea of how the whole set of data works before reporting on it. What does this entail? Let me show you.

Business Intelligence is the art of giving data a voice that is influential to the business’s operations. This influence could be to better customer satisfaction scores, decrease time on the phones, or provide insight into relevant add-ons that customers may be interested. There’s one thing in common: BI is used to help it make more money through higher sales or better public image.

This purpose to make sense of data and give it a voice can be expertly done by a few passionate people. I have found that the best BI people are the ones who are personally driven by it. Yes, you could do BI as just a job, but once it clicks for you, you’ll know that you’ve reached a new level of curiosity, a new level of analysis. The analysis is important to think about, but it’s equally important to keep in mind how the source of the data comes to be. When you understand how the data comes to be, then you can provide highly accurate, very informative and insightful reporting.

Let’s get an understanding on the different parts of data in BI: source, storage, and reporting.


The source of data is purely how the data is created. This can be through automated systems or manual work done my people. The more data you know, the better. Source data is usually the best in its most original form. This means there’s less potential for integrity issues.


The storage of the data is the most important part of BI. The data needs to be stored accurately. If this is not the case, the data is no good. Bad data is worse than no data, as it gives the impression that you have data to work on, and can lead to bad business decisions. Storage of data can be done in dozens of different formats ranging from a flat file in Excel to a multi-server array. They can all provide valuable data.


The reporting of the data is the sole reason that you’ve spent this much effort. Make sure you take the time to accurately and concisely return data. Reporting is an art by itself, so don’t be discouraged when you do it wrong. We all have, and most of us still do so. There’s no right way to display data, as how the data should be displayed is dependent on the data, the user, and the current business questions being asked of the data.

Now that we have an idea about the main parts of BI, let’s go over the mentality. At every step, it’s your job as a BI developer to return accurate data. At no point in your career will this ever not be acceptable. Your next job is to try and answer the data-driven questions of your users. If it cannot answer their questions, then maybe you need to reevaluate what data you need to collect and report on. The last thing to worry about is reporting interface. This means the speed, the colors, and the bells and whistles. These are nothing without a solid foundation, but they will greatly increase user acceptance.


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