What is Business Intelligence?

I am currently evaluating different solutions to solve my company’s business intelligence dilenma.  The dilenma is that we don’t have one currently. 

After tweeting about business intelligence and looking through some options, I was somewhat surprised to see a number of solutions that covered just reporting and dashboards, or in other words, were simply infrastructure that allows the sharing of data in various forms.  There was no ETL solution, there was no database, there were just just numbers and charts offered up on a server.

This contradicts what business intelligence is in my mind.  Business Intelligence is an end to end solution that includes three parts:

1) ETL solution that allows you to gather data, transform it and place it somewhere else.  Talend and Kettle are examples.

2) A database that houses that transformed data and is reported in part 3.  Vertica, Oracle, and MySQL are examples.

3) A data visualization tool that reads data from the database and reports it based on user parameters in various types of visualizations that allow end users to interact with the data.  These may or may not include additional analytical JasperSoft, Pentaho, and BIRT are examples. 

So when looking at these solutions, JasperSoft and Pentaho come to mind as true end to end solutions.  Business Objects is also an example of an enterprise solution.  

Another catch phrase, perhaps, I would like to mention is “BI Stack”.    I firmly believe that this concept of BI Stack acknowledges that there aren’t many true end to end business intelligence solutions out there.  In the case of the BI stack, we are talking about combining solutions that cover the three phases above.  In fact, RightScale offers a BI Stack for the cloud that includes Talend (ETL), Vertica (database) and JasperSoft (reporting/visualization).  

So what is Business Intelligence?  Is it reporting? Is it ETL?  Is it none of the above?

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