Adrian
3 min readMar 15, 2024

--

Business Intelligence Series

What is a BI Strategy?

“A BI strategy is a plan to implement, use, and manage data and analytics to better enable your users to meet their business objectives. An effective BI strategy ensures that data and analytics support your business strategy.” [1]

The definition is from Microsoft’s guide on Power BI implementation planning, a long-awaited resource for those deploying Power BI in their organization.

I read the definition repeatedly and, even if it looks logically correct, the general feeling is that it falls short, and I’m trying to understand why. A strategy is a plan indeed, even if various theorists use modifiers like unified, comprehensive, integrative, forward-looking, etc. Probably, because it talks about a BI strategy, the definition implies using a strategic plan. Conversely, using “ strategic plan” in the definition seems to make the definition redundant, though it would pull then with it all what a strategy is about.

A business strategy is about enabling users to meet organization’s business objectives, otherwise it would fail by design. Implicitly, an organization’s objectives become its employees’ objectives. The definition kind of states the obvious. Conversely, it talks only about the users, and not all employees are users. Thus, it refers only to a subset. Shouldn’t a BI strategy support everybody?

Usually, data analytics refers to the procedures and techniques used for exploration and analysis. Isn’t supposed to consider also the visualization of data? Did it forgot something else? Ideally, a definition shouldn’t define what its terms are about individually, but what they are when used together.

BI as a set of technologies, architectures, methodologies, processes and practices is by definition an enabler if we take these components individually or as a whole. I would play devil’s advocate and ask “better than what?”. Many of the information systems used in organizations come with a set of reports or functionalities that enable users in their jobs without investing a cent in a BI infrastructure.

One or two decades ago one of the big words used in sales pitches for BI tools was “competitive advantage”. I was asking myself when and where did the word disappeared? Is BI technologies’ success so common that the word makes no sense anymore? Did the sellers become more ethical? Or did we recognize that the challenges behind a technology are more of an organizational nature?

When looking at a business strategy, the hierarchy of business objectives forms its backbone, though there are other important elements that form its foundation: mission, vision, purpose, values or principles. A BI strategy needs to be aligned with the business strategy and the other strategies (e.g. quality, IT, communication, etc.). Being able to trace this kind of relationships between strategies is quintessential.

We talk about BI, Data Analytics, Data Management and newly Data Science. The relationship between them becomes more complex. Therefore, what differentiates a BI strategy from the other strategies? The above definition could apply to the other fields as well. Moreover, does it makes sense to include them in one form or another?

Independently how the joint field is called, BI and Data Analytics should be about gaining a deeper understanding about the business and disseminating that knowledge within the organization, respectively about exploring courses of action, building the infrastructure, the skillset, the culture and the mindset to approach more complex challenges and not only to enable business goals!

There are no perfect definitions, especially when the concepts used have drifting definitions as well, being caught into a net that makes it challenging to grasp the essence of things. In the end, a definition is good enough if the data professionals can work with it.

References:
[1] Microsoft Learn (2004) Power BI implementation planning: BI strategy (link).

Originally published at https://sql-troubles.blogspot.com.

--

--

Adrian

IT professional/blogger with more than 24 years experience in IT - Software Engineering, BI & Analytics, Data, Project, Quality, Database & Knowledge Management