Will BI survive? Yes, but we may not recognize it

What’s missing from BI?

Business modeling can be an imprecise term. But in general, it means creating descriptive replicas of a part of a business — such as assets, processes or optimizations — in terms that are consonant with the people (and processes) that use them. Usually, the goal is to render these models into computer-based applications. In general, a business model is created by someone who has specific knowledge about a process or function in the business. This can range from a single fact, such as how operating cash flow is calculated, to something as broad as how the manufacturing plants operate.

Is It Still BI?

BI software was invented for marketing and finance people to gather and report information outside the boundaries of the installed operational systems. In essence, it is designed to inform people and, to a lesser extent, allow certain numerate people to investigate the information a little further. But it was never intended to fit seamlessly into the computing environment. Insights gleaned from its use had to find their way back into systems manually. What people want — and why they have rejected BI — is a seamless, relevant, understandable process to be informed and be able to act on it within the same metaphor.

Augmented analysis

Augmented Analytics is AI, NLP (Natural Language Processing) in particular in very general terms. It is employed for data preparation, insight generation, and explanation, but it is much more than that. The whole gestalt of data analytics is “ask a question, get back an answer, and ask a follow-up question.” In a data visualization tool, you click and drag. In NLP Augmented Analytics, you speak. Ultimately, both generate a query that the underlying analytical engine understands.

My take

Let’s junk the user interfaces and the need to describe what we’re after excruciatingly. One wonders whether the emerging ease of augmented analysts using various types of AI will render BI obsolete or just be branded as a new version of BI. Let’s get back to Dresner’s definition. If I can speak to the systems and say, “compare the last two profit models and perform a sensitivity analysis,” I am the user interface, and I am undeniably doing BI.

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Neil Raden

Neil Raden

Consultant, Mathematician, Author; focused on iAnalytics Applied AI Ethics and Data Architecture