'You're kidding me' Steve said incredulously, 'you can't be serious'. This was after my frantic attempts to contact him first by cell phone, then texting. He had been in his usual meetings and I really needed to talk to hum.
'You're the most untechnical person I know' Steve continued after he called me back. This isn't too much of a put down in my eyes as Steve's a Chief Information Officer, so untechnical to him could be pretty cognisant to others.
Being married to a CIO has its advantages. I can remain blissfully untechnical as he commented because all that is needed is a 'honey, help!!!!!! The internet's not working, how do you do this? Or letting him completely set up each new laptop, wire and wireless at the office, home.
So you can understand his bemusement when I told him I was just engaged by Microsoft to speak at their Business Insights Summit on Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence involves understanding SQL servers, SharePoint, ERP's deep database usage and processes. I haven't been asked to present on this subject before.
My response was 'yes honey, I know (make him feel good), please I really really need your help. What the heck is Business Intelligence. Everywhere I've been looking - the explanations are too (are you ready) technical!
His explanation was superb. Pure. Simple. Thank goodness for Steve.
'Why have a computer? Why use Excel? Why keep a list of customers and sales? It's simply numbers and names. It's the data that the computer allows you to get at and view, turn it into information and knowledge that allows you to make decisions
It's when your business is able to look at, manage, and handle this data that it turns into information. And information translates into actual knowledge that you can then base your business decisions on. Using your data can help you cut operating costs, improve customer service, overcome future problems. He gave me an example.
You can take a look at your workforce demographics. Data is that you have 100 sales reps and you also know their birthdates. Information is that, based on their birthdates, the average age is approaching 50 and knowledge is 30 are within 3 years of retirement.
Allowing you to make a decision of how you will handle the replacement of those retiring. Now, while you can handle doing this for 100 people in an excel spread sheet, imagine doing it for 1000 or more.
Since most people are visually oriented, this data is best illustrated with a scattergram which vividly illustrates the distribution of age. Business Intelligence software is geared towards allowing you to get to the information (and make decisions) quickly and easily.
It's not just huge companies. Business intelligence can be used by any growing business to spot trends, make decisions and manage costs using real time data.
Debbie's personal invitation
If you are interested in learning how your business can better capture and use your data to improve your business results - why not consider attending the Microsoft Business insights Summit (it's complimentary) in Wellington 4 December; Auckland 5 December.