Three factors essential for effective business intelligence

New research from the Nelson Mandela University Business School highlights how actionable information can be used to enhance decision-making

Strategic business intelligence can enhance decision-making.
Strategic business intelligence can enhance decision-making.
Image: Supplied/Nelson Mandela University Business School

Whether you label it business intelligence, data science or management information systems reporting, every organisation stands to benefit from using technology-driven tools to gather and analyse data.

Beyond supplying demographic and economic information, business intelligence can reveal how an organisation is positioned in relation to its competitors, market conditions and future trends.

By providing executives with the answers to essential questions, it can empower them to make well-informed, strategic decisions.

However, an organisation will only derive such value from business intelligence if the data that’s analysed is turned into actionable information. If not, then the money and resources being invested in this area will likely be wasted.

That’s according to a new quantitative study from the Nelson Mandela University Business School titled “A Business Intelligence Effectiveness Model: Enhancing organisations’ decision-making capability”.

The research, which was based on a sampling of respondents from a telecommunications organisation, was conducted by Dr Sam February from the Nelson Mandela University Business School and Prof Hanlie Smuts from the University of Pretoria.

The results showed that the effectiveness of an organisation’s business intelligence department has a direct affect on an its decision-making capability. 

This effectiveness is based on three interrelated factors:

1. Business intelligence strategy

February says that a business intelligence department’s strategy should be geared towards “providing the right information, at the right time, in the right format, to the right person”.

2. Utilisation

The research found that, for various reasons, business intelligence departments often did not understand what decisionmakers needed. Therefore, one of the first steps in creating an effective unit is to identify the audience who will be using the information.

3. Availability and usability

The findings also showed that it’s not enough for a business intelligence department to be reliable and consistent in providing supporting data. It’s also important to make sure that data is available in a usable format, and that it is actually used thereafter.

Thus, if a company wishes to make the best use of its business intelligence, it must address all three of these factors. Doing so will result in a better flow of information throughout the company, leading to improved accessibility, decision-making and ultimately, productivity.

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This article was paid for by Nelson Mandela University Business School.