Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is usually business information brought to a centralized analysis tool for analysis and decision making support purposes, and is still quite often financials-related data. Usually it`s collected from sources such as the company CRM, ERP, helpdesk, financial systems and the HR tools. In some cases it can also be business information or general information about and around one`s business being brought into a centralized analysis tool, such as parts of the company ERP tool or a specific BI tool. Especially Salesforce, Oracle and SAP have been working hard to turn this aspect into a Social Media process, and they all have a slightly different approach to it.

So what is Social Business Intelligence?

Most people consider it being straight forward raw business data that is being collected for analysis purposes to further increase company`s efficiency or profitability – the social aspect hidden somewhere deep in the process or in the source of data. Well, it may not be quite that simple.

  • Exact information about certain people (and in the future their discussions and status updates!), companies or markets are being brought into a centralized analysis tool from external sources such as social networks, e.g. LinkedIn.
  • Social BI could also be information from discussion forums, chat rooms, etc. general discussion environments/tools for crowdsourcing purposes
  • A person can collect information about other people and/or companies to support ones personal goals; looking for work, research, networking activities, etc. Usually done via Social Networks and media
  • It may also be data coming from automated alerts and tracking systems about competitors, suppliers, company/product mentions, etc.

If the information is being collected from or with help of social media, the social point of business intelligence is very valid. If the data is being brought into a (social) collaboration tool (e.g. or open discussion at company Intranet or similar, the discussion and open analysis of employees may bring even more value to the data, enhancing the social aspect. People may have personal or private information that they can bring into the discussion or they could analyse the data differently based on their knowledge of other factors related to the subject matter. Consider it crowdsourcing to the power of 2. And still after this round the data could be brought into the strategy discussions at company management.

If the information is used wisely, the benefits are seen in many parts of the organisation. The data may well help in targetting advertising, help following the competitive landscape and markets in general, identify potential threats (in many forms), help spotting new suppliers, vendors and subcontractors, adjust process flows internally and in production, identify buyers, decision-makers and influencers, create value to support-functionalities, target new market segments, generally validate information, etc. I won`t go very deep with these, but the means are plenty and varied.

Combining the information coming from all the internal systems with sales data, bonus programs, social plug-ins, social media profiles and discussions, Likes, followers and fans, shopping lists and bookmarks, etc. create a huge endless dataflow that can help you do business like never before – or it could potentially drown you with uncontrolled, useless, unstructured information. Which option would you choose? Yes, I thought so. Well then, choose your weapons wisely, and choose what you want to know. If you just dig into all the data you can get your hands on, you`re in trouble. You need to identify what information you want to find out, from where (which are the relevant sources), when (a constant unstructured flow or a set time), and why? What do you want to do with that? How can you use it best for your purposes.

Additionally it is extremely important to understand the difference between information and information. Sound odd? What I mean is that on one hand you have information that the client has given to you 3 years ago when they last bought something from you or asked for a quote. Then there`s a number of LinkedIn profiles related to the company, and people who you see in your own system having worked there 3 years ago. Which data is newer? Is the LinkedIn person the exactly same person who you think he/she is? A name is not enough to identify a person! Sometimes even not the same school or employer in addition to the name is enough. And then on top of all this there`s a number of profiles and data coming from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Plaxo, Unyk, Bebo, Orkut, etc. Which data is allowed to update your CRM client profile, which is the newest data, should all be brought in for further analysis? Who`s going to manually verify the data? Consider yourself warned! You need a strategy!

There are tools for all this, but seldom if never everything in one. There are the above mentioned SaaS-CRM Salesforce, there`s SAP with dozens of submodules including old BW and new BO for Business Intelligence needs, Oracle with their DataGuard and the Siebel Analysis tools, and then there are dozens and dozens of small applications and tools to help you dig in to certain social media information. One of the new small tools is SomeMonitor that I`ve mentioned before. SomeMonitor brings in the data from specified sources, allows structuring, helps digging in to the data a couple of different ways, and helps identifying influencers. And as you can choose the data sources, it may well stay controlled and easily analysable. That`s just one example, there`s plenty of different tools out there, but most still need a lot of personal controlling and continuing adjusting, and are focused to only a handful of sources. SomeMonitor is also restricted to a certain number of sources, but they seem to be willing to add more when asked for and when possible.

So now you know a bit more about Social Business Intelligence. How does it feel? Information overflow heading your way? No worries, just think about what you want to achieve first and why, and then (only then!) move on to trying different tools that fit your need. Social BI is here, that`s for sure, but not many companies use if yet to larger extent, you`re not too late 😉

Which tools would you recommend and what are your experiences with the above mentioned?