Business Intelligence 2.0 – Start Making Better Decisions Today

In this post, we introduce Business Intelligence 2.0 (BI 2.0). In order to do so, we’ll talk about what business intelligence (BI) is, what the “2.0″ represents, and how BI 2.0 differs from its predecessor. Most importantly, we’ll discuss how BI 2.0 can help your organization to start making better decisions today!

What is business intelligence?

Our dear friend Wikipedia says that BI is ”a set of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes”. I would have to agree.

Basically, it’s taking all of that complex, convoluted data that means little to us in and of itself, bringing it together, working with it, and presenting it in such a way that it can have a positive impact on how our organization functions and makes decisions. It helps us become more data driven. It helps us find kernels of insight and truth within large heaps of numbers whose correlations to one another are not immediately obvious to the unaided human. Business Intelligence 2.0 solutions help teams work together from anywhere, any time. Ultimately, it can lead to better strategic decision making.

What’s the “2.0″ all about?

The “2.0″ was adopted from “Web 2.0″. Web 2.0 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways including the introduction of social networks, wikis, blogs, and multimedia content sharing. Web 2.0 took the web from static pages that conveyed information in one direction to a more dynamic web where it wasn’t the dissemination of information but rather conversations that took center stage. Suddenly, it became possible and even common for people that are geographically dispersed and strangers to one another to collaborate on a problem or connect around a common interest. The web became social.

Web 2.0 was also the beginning of the prioritization of user experience and user interface design. It was no longer appropriate to throw up some red text on a black background with flashing links sprinkled all over the place begging for a click. Attention to tiny details such as colours, the use of space, the user’s workflow, the location and appearance of every button and control started to become expected by users.

At the end of the day, thoughtful design is prized. Thoughtful design could be characterized as the design that allows the user to complete their goals in an efficient manner while also leaving them delighted by their experience. So, not only does Web 2.0 aim to be social; it also aims to be aesthetic and delightful.

You can probably see where we’re going with this. Business Intelligence 1.0 was akin to Web 1.0; it was clunky and difficult to use, it did not facilitate communication between internal and external stakeholders, and thus it made it difficult to collaborate and make decisions collectively. Business Intelligence 1.0 was probably better than no business intelligence, but it left much room for improvement. Unfortunately, many organizations are still operating with the help of clunky BI 1.0 or no BI at all!

This takes us to BI 2.0.

Business Intelligence 2.0

There seems to be a number of ways to describe BI 2.0. This lack of complete agreement may be due to the fact that it was just “born” in the mid 2000′s. Business Intelligence 2.0 is still in the midst of being formed and transformed by ambitious entrepreneurs that are passionate about better data, better user experiences, better platforms for collaboration, and ultimately – better decisions. That being said, my favourite approach for explaining it is Gregory S. Nelson’s approach in his 2010 white paper titled: “Business Intelligence 2.0: Are we there yet?“.

Rather than characterize BI 2.0 by the features that must be present, he speaks more about how it follows alongside developments in Web 2.0. This is a better way of approaching the topic because just as Web 2.0 is still evolving, so is BI 2.0. To understand where BI 2.0 is headed, take a look at how the web is changing and evolving – BI 2.0 isn’t far behind.

The depth in which he dives into some of the defining characteristics of the prominent Web 2.0 entities is worth looking into if you’re especially interested in this topic. For the sake of brevity in this post, we’ll touch on some of the big ones that we think you will appreciate and want to take advantage of.

Unplanned use and organic evolution

This refers to the way social platforms such as Twitter are really just that when they launch – a platform. From there, users run with the constraints they were given and decide how this tool will be used and improved.

For example, it was a twitter user, Chris Messina, that created the Twitter hashtag to track popular events and topics. Only later did Twitter accept this organic evolution and make hashtags clickable and thus an official Twitter feature. A number of tools have since come out to help businesses leverage the “Twitterverse” to increase their bottom line. This is possible because Twitter is open to have outside developers create applications that tap into what Twitter has created, thus enriching and changing what Twitter is forever.

I think Nelson wants to see this in BI 2.0 offerings as well. Rather than have a product that is static and built for one rigid use case (e.g. legacy software), he’d want to see tools that have some constraints built in but also some dynamic properties as well. A BI 2.0 solution should be flexible enough that it can serve its original purpose but also evolve based on user input.

Commenting and tagging

While this may not seem like a big deal – it is. Being able to tag and comment allows conversation to be tied to specific ideas, data points, and ultimately decisions. Not only that, but it can be documented, referred to, and learned from in the future. When the entire journey, including the conversation is captured, we can see what led us towards good and bad decisions and refine our process over time.

The fact that we can tag and comment remotely allows us to effectively collaborate in near real time and anonymously if we choose. This ability to contribute remotely and anonymously is important for negating some of the biases we spoke about in two previous posts, “ABCs of decision making biases – Part 1 and Part 2“. It’s a major component that allows us to take the upsides of collaboration and collective decision-making while sidestepping many of the downsides that come from those fired up board room decision-making sessions where cognitive biases run rampant.

Rating and ranking

One thing we see all over the social platforms is the ability to like, favourite, share, upvote, and recommend content. Basically, it’s the ability to show that some information is better than others because the group says it is and not because some single authority demands it be seen this way. It’s the power of leveraging your workforce.

In the context of decision making, this would be the rating and ranking of options to be decided on. Whether we’re looking at applications for entrance into a startup incubator, grant applications, product and feature ideas, or something else entirely; rating and ranking features will allow the best options to rise to the top due to the input of our diverse and skilled decision-making team. This is again an opportunity to sidestep some of the decision-making biases we’ve spoken about in previous posts while ensuring the upside of collective decision-making is realized.

Real time flow of information and asynchronous participation

One thing that makes social media so relevant is the fact that information flows in near or real time. If something is happening in Egypt, we hear about it through Twitter from people on the ground before the News can craft its story. In our Web 2.0 world, once information is available it is immediately shareable. People from all over can then participate in the conversation immediately. So, this real time flow of information includes both information about the initial event as well as the conversation around said event.

The other interesting property is this notion of asynchronous participation. The information flows in real time and then people can interact with it at whatever time and place is most suitable for them. This is possible because the information flows and is kept “out there” in a sandbox for all to play in when they feel like playing. This is again a huge step forward as it makes leveraging the minds of many increasingly feasible.

We see this in BI 2.0 solutions today. For example, here at, the intake of applications and ideas can be continuous and everyone involved in the decision-making process would see this continuous flow in near real time. People can then review, rate, rank, and comment on each option whenever and wherever it is convenient, so long as they meet the deadline set by the administrator of course! Collective decision-making is possible on a continuous basis across time zones, devices, and individuals. It’s a beautiful thing!

We on the same page?

At its foundation, Business Intelligence 2.0 differs from its predecessor much like Web 2.0 differs from its. It’s the move towards solutions that are dynamic, flexible, social, and accessible. It’s a move towards experiences that are efficient and elegant. It’s the move towards solutions that allow us to create and collect more data and then present it in a way that makes sense at a glance. It’s the move towards a real time and asynchronous collaboration environment that results in more efficient and effective decision making.

It’s the move that progressive organizations, whether in the non-profit or for-profit sector, are making to do what they already do well – better.

Join our growing group of savvy decision-makers!

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