Business Intelligence 4.0

Spring 2014

Yesterday I discovered that Celina Olszak, from the University of Economics in Katowice, Poland, included some of my ideas about Business Intelligence 3.0 in her paper: Assessment of Business Intelligence Maturity in the Selected Organizations. The paper was submitted to the 2013 Federated Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems.

These ideas about the collaborative nature of Business Intelligence emerged from the systems I designed during the period 1998-2005 for the Dept. of Defence and leading Telcos/Bancassurance Groups here in Australia.

They are an exploration the simple question I would recommend any prospective buyer of Business Intelligence software should ask each and every vendor: So tell me how this investment in your business intelligence software will make my business more intelligent.

If you are in the market for a BI solution try it. If only to witness the shock of horror or complete dumbfoundness on the vendor's face as they attempt to process the question.

Having scanned the paper my feedback is simply this: The paper falls into the trap of exploring the machine centric solution to organisational intelligence at the expense of the human centric nature of the question of intelligence.

Spend any time in a classroom teaching students and you'll soon discover the true measure of intelligence is in the nature of the questions the student asks, not in the answers as prescribed by the self evident limits of our industrial age education system.

So too it is with any organisation. The true measure of intelligence is in the question, not the answer. I say that because true intelligence can discover new ways to discover the answer to the question. Those with the answer have but one card to play. The answer in their hand... and more often than not it proves to be the wrong answer.

This is why optimising business processes and then automating them using software is so time consuming, expensive and ultimately futile - in a rapidly changing market.

20 years on Business Intelligence continues to be more a function of HR than technology. Smart people are still more agile and competitive than smart machines. Put smart people and smart machines together and you end up with a real winner. Collaborative Intelligence. Or what I described almost decade ago as BI 3.0.

So what about tomorrow?

Today, if asked, I would describe BI 4.0, not as big data, rather the emergence of machines that create questions. And by that I mean the transition from the idea that Business Intelligence is all about putting all your information in a box and trying to search for the answer - be it a database or a network of databases - to the idea the value of the technology spend is in the questions it anticipates ahead of the business cycle.

And by that I mean the future of business intelligence is about profiting from shaping behaviours. The BI systems of the future will scrape behaviours and then employ them as the basis of creating speculative models. Behavioural forecasting if you like. This means the machines won't be in the business of answering questions but in the business of generating questions and exploring the outcomes of 1000's of simulated behavioural experiments based on those questions.

Put simply BI 4.0 is about behavioural modelling and then using those behavioural models to shape the behaviour of the business and of course the markets the business operates in.

In the future we will go to the machine in search of the right question... not just the right answer.

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