Business Intelligence is not just reporting

Whenever I start a conference presentation, I lead with “Business Intelligence is not just reporting!”  This comes about as a call to get new Power BI users to look more broadly. If all you are doing with Power BI is replicating the Excel spreadsheets you already have, you are missing out on significant value. If your users want their new dashboards to look like a spreadsheet, a conversation is warranted.

Let’s discuss three ways that Business Intelligence is so much more than reporting.

BI is your first step towards AI

A lot of companies today are intrigued by the potential of artificial intelligence. Some of them have started projects to implement AI. The issue that many companies will run into as they start the path toward AI is data quality. For AI to be successful, you must have good quality data to train the models. If you haven’t started down the BI path yet, chances are, your data quality is poor at best. Jumping into AI with poor data quality will lead to incorrect outcomes.

BI forces you to clean up your data and processes

Another positive outcome of BI projects is a rationalization of entity and business rule definitions. For example, in a recent project, the client wanted to monitor product profitability across the board. The issue was that the definition of a product was different based on the division producing it. Consequently, we had to find common data ground for such an analysis to be made.

In other projects, we encounter timing discrepancies, dependencies on manual effort for key data, and incomplete data. It’s very difficult to have useful near real-time analysis over data that is received once a month from Finance. These timing issues must be worked out across processes.


Do you really want to bet your career on the numbers within a manually maintained spreadsheet?

BI can eliminate a lot of hidden manual effort

Manual data gardening of spreadsheets is taking up a lot of time in organizations and creating potential problems. Do you really want to bet your career on the numbers within a manually maintained spreadsheet? The sad truth is that many managers do just that.

Also, the manual effort is robbing you of your most precious resource, time. There was one organization where every one of their twenty project managers were spending six hours a week manually creating status reports. Products like Power BI and Flow can be used together to automate the collection and dissemination of data within the organization, freeing up time for more valuable work. A small project like this can easily justify the license expense of Power BI.

BI can set the stage for further successes

In the end, a successful BI journey creates fertile ground for a potentially successful AI implementation. In the end, we will achieve Collaborative Intelligence (CI) where the AI tools augment the human and make them more effective. Many of the most amazing uses of AI are focused on shortening or removing the learning curve, instead of replacing the human.

BI can’t do it alone

Lastly, one of the other challenges we see is the idea that simply bringing in a new BI tool will magically produce results. Time and again, organizations make software investments without the requisite investment in people. To get the highest benefit from a BI tool, your organizational culture must make data part of their day to day activity. Creating a data culture requires active investment and time.


One sign of a company that has achieved a data culture is that data has a “voice.” You’ll hear people ask in meetings, “what does the data say?”

The rise of Data Culture

One sign of a company that has achieved a data culture is that data has a “voice.” You’ll hear people ask in meetings, “what does the data say?” While upgrading software is easy, upgrading people’s habits is much harder. If you are starting the journey, you should consider how you will invest in training and in a community of practice to sustain the change long term. We’ll discuss data culture in more detail in a subsequent post.

We can help you

Without the accompanying culture change, your BI tool implementation may simply be the latest “change tsunami” to wash upon your corporate shore. These waves create massive chaos today as they impact people’s work habits. Then the project washes out after a few months, never to be heard from again. The damage to your co-workers’ trust will remain for a long time.

I hope you can avoid these issues. If you need help navigating the change, please reach out to us as we can help you.