You may have reached a point where you realize that you have a lot of data collected about your business but no real way to present it back in a meaningful way. You’re beginning to explore the possibility of implementing a business intelligence approach, but every article you read and every conversation you have with someone inevitably uses words that seem to have different meanings to different people. Like any area of study, business intelligence discussions can end up with jargon tossed out to describe the same thing, which can be overwhelming to someone new to the topic.
Here’s a list of terms, and a few bonus words, you’re likely to hear and should know when discussing business intelligence.
Start with these Business Intelligence Terms
Analysis – n: a detailed examination of anything complex to understand its nature or determine its essential features: a thorough study.
Analytics – n: the method of logical analysis.
In business intelligence, analytics is furthered divided in to three distinct parts: Descriptive Analytics, Predictive Analytics, and Prescriptive Analytics.
- Descriptive analytics is the approach used to determine your organization’s current situation. Essentially, any value that represents a record of past events that can be used to analyze business up to the present is considered descriptive. Investment performance returns, revenue numbers, and transaction activity are a few examples. This approach makes up most business intelligence output today.
- Predictive analytics is the approach that uses the same data found by the descriptive analysis, often utilizing the descriptive outcomes, to predict what will happen assuming the current situation remains. This is where advanced approaches like machine learning and other algorithms will be employed to make predictions using the historical data. Predictive analytics looks at the statistical patterns in the data and determines which are likely to appear again, applying the results to estimate future results.
- Prescriptive analytics uses the descriptive and predictive results and applies additional input to suggest optional paths that could change the outcome. It can further display the implications of those decisions, allowing the organization to evaluate which path is the best.
Business Intelligence – n: the processes, tools, and other methods used to capture and analyze data, with the goal of deriving better answers to key questions. Business intelligence ultimately helps an organization make better decisions.
Visualization – n: The act or process of interpreting [data] in visual terms and putting into visible form. Line Charts, Pie Charts, Column and/or Bar graphs, and other graphical display types are presented to the user in a manner that eases an analytic task, such as comparisons.
Data Point – n: an individually identifiable piece of information. Elements such as address, age, and number of beneficiaries are examples of data points. Summarizing important data points into meaningful results is critical to monitoring your organizations goals and performance track.
Filter – n: added criteria applied to a query to reduce the data retrieved, typically used to ensure that only relevant results are returned. Filtering is usually temporary, as the full data is kept while the subset of information is viewed and analyzed.
Indicator – n: a measurable characteristic used to show changes or the current state of progress toward a specific outcome. Often visualized as a single number or possibly a gauge showing progress toward an established target.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI) – n: a value measured over time used to demonstrate performance of a specific business objective. Indicators deemed important, possibly critical, to an organization’s business goals and well-being are usually referred to as KPIs. Profit Margin and Revenue per Client are two well-established KPIs for most businesses.
Table – n: a collection of related data held in a column and row format. Tables can be a useful tool for displaying small lists of information instead of a visual in a dashboard but are more often used for displaying the expanded details of a given dashboard visual when requested.
Scorecard – n: a semi-structured report that monitors strategy performance by tracking and visualizing KPIs, metrics, and other data points deemed important to the organization. Sometimes synonymous with Dashboard, the goal of a Scorecard is to provide the manager, department or division leader, or overall company leadership with a view of the selected performance metrics for review.
Balanced Scorecard – n: a strategy performance tool that keeps track of individual KPIs (goals) and monitors the consequences of changes in process (or lack of change) through prescribed measures. A Balanced Scorecard is a specific approach to Scorecard/Dashboards that aligns traditional financial measures in addition to other process measures to provide a more holistic, or “balanced” view of overall performance. KPIs for objectives like Client Retention, Customer contacts, are included in addition to traditional objectives like Revenue and New Sales.
Metric – n: a system or standard of measurement. Sometimes synonymous with Indicator, a metric is any element used to track a wide array of business goals. An example of a metric could be monitoring usage of a particular system feature compared to the number of support issues received for that same feature.
Report – n: a more detailed and lengthy collection of data, often spanning multiple pages and presented in static form using text and tabular layouts. Reports can present graphs and other visualizations as well, but are usually not interactive, and are limited to a specific snapshot in time.
Dashboard – n: a tool made up of multiple visualization elements designed to track and display multiple metrics in a unified arrangement. The metrics visualized in a dashboard view are typically related to allow for the application of filters to make the analysis by the user easier.
Spreadsheet – n: an electronic document that arranges data in a grid of rows and columns which can be manipulated and used in calculation. Common spreadsheet tools: Excel, Google Sheets, Apple Numbers
Export – v: to save a copy of a current document or collection of data points to another database or file type to be used by a different application. Requesting to view the backing source details from a given visualization is often requested to be exported to a spreadsheet format so it can be further analyzed in a different application. (e.g., Excel)
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