An Argument for Simplifying Your Business Intelligence

Every year, IBM interviews thousands of C-suite executives from across the globe to learn what they’re focused on and what’s helping them succeed. If you’re looking for insights into enterprise comings and goings, this series of reports is essential reading.

Lately, though, the C-suite is telling a single story.

Everyone’s talking about big data, business intelligence and the value it brings to business. Makes sense given IBM’s corporate goals. But a funny thing happened on the way to the data warehouse: Most of us got distracted.

Big data has simply become big confusion, with seemingly all but a few top-performing executives struggling to make data and analytics work in the way they’ve been promised it would.

When you look at executive-level surveys on the topic, it’s easy to see why. Some stats to consider:

  • 60% of marketers surveyed by Econsultancy and Monetate reported having at least four different data sources they used for marketing activities. Another 10% of those surveyed didn’t even know how many they had.
  • 74% of C-suite executives surveyed by and Domo reported that they need to get their data from multiple, unconnected sources. Only 21% of those surveyed said the reports they receive actually contain the information they need.

Consider, too, that 90% of respondents—in both surveys—said they were unable to create business strategies and tactics to take advantage of their data (Econsultancy/Monetate) and that the reports they received failed to serve as a solid foundation for decision-making (

The Meta View of Data Collection

These data points highlight what should be a fairly obvious conclusion: Most executives can’t use data to make meaningful business decisions, so they probably shouldn’t focus on collecting more of it. Instead, they should focus on simplifying the whole thing.

One way to simplify is to ask a single question: “Do we need this?”

If big data and business intelligence strategies aren’t aligning with a company’s business objections, the answer to that question is probably no. And if the answer is no, then any desire to immediately use that data can probably be shelved.

That’s not to say that data isn’t important. It’s likely just not as important.

With data storage prices dropping to less than $0.05/gigabyte and computer processing power still doubling every two years, it’s easy to lose focus of priorities.

The Path to Simplification

And that, it seems, is the trick. Knowing the difference between the truly important data and the merely interesting data helps simplify your business intelligence and focus only on what data has the potential to deliver the most impact to your business.

The strategy here, then, isn’t as much about compiling vast amounts of data as it is about using data to refine or act on a business strategy. Focus your business, focus your question and focus your data. You’re better off keeping it simple.