Business intelligence isn't just for wonks. It's for real people, too. That's the gist of an interesting New York Times article (published on News.com).
To illustrate this, one of the examples offered is that of a Richmond, Va., police official who initially thought it "kind of nutty" to analyze crime reports with other data such as sporting event schedules and weather patterns in an effort to determine when and where crimes might occur. His opinion changed when the city's crime rate fell by 20 percent in 2006.
BI helped police realize that they needed to boost manpower on paydays in Hispanic neighborhoods, where residents were being targeted as they left check-cashing stores.
BI's effects are most obvious in business, economics and crime prevention, says a Cornell professor. The falling prices of computing and digital storage have made it easier for companies to save and review an unbelievable amount of data, arriving at conclusions they couldn't have before.
While MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson likens today's BI to a microscope, ZDNet bloggers Dan Farber and Larry Dignan note thatit's not quite that simple. You can compile the data, but to mine it for insights requires "expensive 'microscopes' from companies such as SAS, Business Objects and Microstrategy."
They suggest that an "on-demand data mining mashup service" is what's needed to make BI truly mainstream. "Something like Google Analytics but generalized for almost any kind of query," they say.
This appears to be one of the primary drivers behind BI with integrated search capabilities, which allows users to run ad-hoc queries against data rather than using complicated query interfaces, says Ventana Research's Mark Smith in a recent IT Business Edge interview. BI's traditionally complex interfaces and steep learning curves have kept many "ordinary" users from wanting to try it.