BI can only tell you what has happened, not what will happen?

There is always a rich debate around what actually constitutes or defines BI and the one argument that is always raised is that BI can only tell you what has happened historically in a business and fails to tell you what will happen in future. The starting point is to acknowledge that BI is not just a case of implement a solution and HEY PRESTO you have a better business. It certainly is no magic wand.

It’s also a very real possibility that BI will start to become very predictive in the years ahead and it may not be too far-fetched to suggest that when you click on a cell on a spreadsheet and are unsure of the calculation or interpretation of the number you have selected, your solution may even say, “it appears you are perplexed, may I drill down to detail to make more sense of this number or my I generate a few scenarios of how this number could affect your Net Profit if we assume certain changes?”.

One thing is certain is that BI needs a person, an owner, to understand how the information in a business can be used from both an historical and a predictive perspective. Just like we all know it’s not sustainable to pollute the seas or our atmosphere and yet but we still do it…so BI is useless unless there is a decision to use the information it supplies in a meaningful way in a business.

BI is getting easier, more accessible and more affordable, but the human task of interpreting information, making decisions based on that information, and most importantly, executing effectively on those decisions, is more likely to be a bigger obstacle to useful BI in future than the technical task of making the information available itself.