Making the Most of What You’ve Got—Using Business Intelligence
IN THIS CHAPTER:
What Business Intelligence Can Do For You Business Intelligence at Many Levels Maximum Miniatures, Inc. Building the Foundation
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Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2005
“Out of clutter ﬁnd simplicity. From discord ﬁndharmony.’’ —Albert Einstein’s First Two Rules of Work In the previous chapter, we discussed the importance of effective decision making to the success of any organization. We also learned that effective decision making depends on speciﬁc goals, concrete measures to evaluate our progress toward those goals, and foundation and feedback information based on those measures. The latter two items, concretemeasures and foundation/feedback information, we referred to as business intelligence. In this chapter, we take a look at the types of questions this business intelligence can help us answer. We also discuss the types of business intelligence that are needed at various levels of an organization. The chapter ends by talking about Maximum Miniatures, Incorporated, the company that we are going touse for our examples throughout the book.
What Business Intelligence Can Do For You
In Chapter 1, we saw how business intelligence is used to support effective decision making. It provides foundational information on which to base a decision. Business intelligence also provides us with feedback information that can be used to evaluate a decision. It can provide that foundational and feedbackinformation in a number of different ways.
When We Know What We Are Looking For
In some cases, we know what information we are looking for. We have a set of particular questions we want answered. What is the dollar amount of the sales or services our organization is providing in each region? Who are our top salespeople? In some of these situations, we not only know what we are looking for, butwe also have a good idea where to ﬁnd the information when we design the business intelligence solution.
When we know the question we want answered and have a good idea where that answer is going to be found, we can use printed reports to deliver our business intelligence. This is the most common form of business intelligence and one we are all familiar with. For manysituations, this format works well. For example, if we want to know the dollar amount of the sales or services
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C h a p t e r 2 : M a k i n g t h e M o s t o f W h a t Yo u ’ v e G o t — U s i n g B u s i n e s s I n t e l l i g e n c e
provided in each region, we know where to ﬁnd this information. We can design a report to retrieve the information andthe report will consistently deliver what we need. The report serves as an effective business intelligence tool. This is an example of layout-led discovery. With layout-led discovery, we can only learn information that the report designer thought to put in the report layout when it was ﬁrst designed. If the information wasn’t included at design time, we have no way to access it at the time thereport is read. Suppose our report shows the dollar amount for a given region to be unusually low. If the report designer did not include the supporting detail for that region, we have no way to drill into the region and determine the cause of the anomaly. Perhaps a top salesperson moved to another region. Maybe we have lost a key client. The report won’t give us that information. We quickly come toa dead end.
In some cases, we know the question, but we don’t know exactly where to look for our answer. This often occurs when the information we initially receive changes the question slightly. As in the example from the previous section, an anomaly in the information may cause us to want to look at the data in a slightly different way. The unusually low dollar amount...