How to mix Business Intelligence and Social Media to enable decision making
Children are constantly learning. First they crawl than they learn how to walk. And the same happens with playing. At first they start out doing this alone and they find it difficult to share toys with others. They want to keep those fun things themselves. But in time the children learn that playing together is more fun. And that playing together also means that you have to share your toys with others. This increases the fun and before you know it you have a new best friend. We have an expression in the Netherlands which goes like this: “Playing together is sharing together”. This Dutch rime helps children share their toys with other children while playing. As an adult the world looks pretty much the same. We also find it difficult to share our toys, let alone enterprise data or corporate analyses. However sharing can create enormous advantages and will increase your Return-On-Information. In this article we look at the role of corporate information (or business intelligence) and how social networks (or internet social media like twitter) can help decision making. Perhaps in the near future a manager will publish his or hers corporate data on the net with a $50 reward for the person that comes up with the best solution.

From bearskin suits to intelligent use of information
We used to learn this in school during history lessons. The first inhabitants of the Netherlands were fishers, hunters and collectors. They wore bearskin suits and chased after mammoths. But after a while they started working the land and established small towns and villages. This urbanization allowed them to split their roles and tasks. The cow gave milk to the farmer which he used to buy bread from the baker. The industrial revolution ended these small scale economic (trading) activities. The modern time demanded mass production and oil and steel were the new, o so crucial, cows.
The next big break was the information revolution. The introduction of the computer was just the beginning. Everything bit of information was changed into bits and bytes. Information became the new oil and is the lubricant for today’s economy. Data or information has become an essential production factor just like labor or capital. But the information revolution came to us in waves. First, information was broadcasted by one source for the benefit of many. Think about mass media like radio and television. But the internet has changed this model for ever. The net maybe started out somewhat one dimensional with website after website where all possible interest known to mankind was broadcasted. But soon after that it became possible to react on the sender’s opinion thus creating some kind of dialogue. The next step was sharing information or creating a dialogue between larger groups of congenial persons. Communities were being formed.
The importance of information has been recognized by many. Information has become an economic factor of production and therefore it is one of the things that enable enterprises to achieve competitive advantages. For example, by knowing trends and other developments before others. It has given rise to a field of expertise where collecting information to improve performance has become important: Business Intelligence (BI). Intelligence, not by coincidence, reminds is of the CIA. An organization that also values information. Only the BI field has been dominated by IT. As a result there is a focus on the technology with regard to information supply instead of using information to increase business opportunities. BI is mainly engaged with opening up enterprise data to get insights in the corporate performance. Social media are also engaged with information collection. Only the platform is not the corporate IT systems but the internet.
Oil is scarce, information is abundant
In time commodities like oil and steel are going to run out. With information it’s exactly the other way round. There is an abundance of information available. From every corner comes data or information. From our systems like cash register, book keeping, HR or the ERP system. But also from external sources like internet. This information can take on different shapes and forms. Sometimes it’s a comment placed in an online forum, or a picture, but it can also be a pdf file containing market analyses or a press release. The challenge is to find the famous needle in the haystack, or rather in football fields filled with haystacks.
A first step is finding or locating data that can be useful, in other words: where is it? The next step will be controlling the data. To make heads and tails of it. For example by capturing it in a model to create insight. The central question here would be: What is it? After that we have to look at the value of the captured information. Is it indeed relevant? Does it have some sort of economic value? What can I do with it? The last step is an interpretation of the data. By giving the data some kind of rating or importance. In other words: what can I do with it?
In part 2 we will take a closer look at each of the four different steps.