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Data, Information and Knowledge: The three pillars of Business Intelligence

Gartner defines business intelligence as “an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance” Business Intelligence is a wider application of the concept of Market Intelligence, which was defined by Dr Thomas Fletcher Grooms in his 1998 thesis “Establishing the Foundation for Market Intelligence” as follows: “Market Intelligence (MKI) is gathered through internal analysis, competition analysis and market analysis about the total environment forming a broad spectrum of assembled knowledge, which is then used for developing scenarios so that timely reporting of vital foreknowledge for future planning in the areas of strategic, tactical and counter-intelligence decision-making can be applies operationally and strategically in respect to the whole organisation's strategic interest in the whole market” So how do the three pillars of the title relate to this? Knowledge is the combination of information and experience that enables decisions to be made. A successful BI project should start by looking at the decisions which need to be made, and the information required to support them – as with any other investment the resources committed to a BI project should have a clear business justification. Information is key. Information is data with context and meaning. A name, address and telephone number by themselves are pieces of data, but correctly related will give you the information you need to contact an individual. The bare data may also be enriched by additional data specific to your situation – perhaps the relationship with the person which could be one of many things (relative, friend, supplier, customer ….). Further enriching the data may help construct the knowledge needed to support more complex decisions like “Who should I send a company holiday greeting card to, and who should receive a personal one?”. Understanding the information required to support decisions will help build an understanding of the data required, and where it comes form. Some may be already present in existing systems but need transformation to be indexed and searchable in a form that supports decision making, other data may have to be captured in order to round out your information. Managing data, and the lifecycle of data, is the third pillar. Knowing where the data is stored, and how those data stores relate to each other, is vital to making sure that EVERY time a piece of data is used to support a decision or presented as information it is accurate, timely and relevant. Knowing these three pillars of the BI world will enable you to design solutions which drive the selection of tools – the business should always drive the selection and configuration of tools, and never the other way around. Your thoughts and opinion on this topic are welcome on our LinedIn discussion group.


About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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