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Using Smart Search To Achieve True Business Intelligence

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsThursday, November 26, 2009

When organizations look at search and business intelligence, many see the use of search only within the parameters of their business intelligence solutions.  In this sense, search functionality acts as a powerful tool that lets end users access information that they might not otherwise know exists.  For instance, because many people create several reports, end users do not know if information or prepared analyses they require have already been created.  Therefore, end users use search to identify what is already available, lessening the work required and adding to the amount of information available.

This use of search, however, provides only limited visibility into the organization.  On one hand, it enables a broader view of business intelligence-related data, reports and created content.  On the other hand, search queries are limited to BI data and do not offer insights or identify content related to how the business is running overall.  To get the most out of a search environment, it becomes important to combine search and business intelligence so that the benefits of both can be applied to the way companies analyze information.

Business intelligence is known to help organizations gain insights into structured content.  Search provides the opposite by looking through unstructured content and identifying pertinent business information.  The combination of both can give companies a broader inspection of how both types of content overlap to provide more visibility into overall strategic goals and to identify how business-related information interrelates. The difficulty lies in how organizations can take advantage of both or at least improve their current visibility into their data and created content.

The overlap of BI and search

A few years ago, business intelligence solutions began announcing search capabilities as part of their product offerings.  In a sense, this was a big step forward because of the fact that business intelligence content can be hard to find.  Depending upon who has developed reports or how the system works, naming conventions might not follow logical patterns or data may be stored in locations unknown to those wanting to access them.  Use of search created an easy-to-use environment, opening up BI accessibility to help users access information that might not be found in their online portal or personal files.

Despite this advancement in BI and the expansion of data access for the masses, BI search represents only a small portion of the intrinsic benefits of search.  Search applications used on an enterprise scale provide visibility into the information that exists.  Within some search providers, search applications actually go one step further by identifying relationships and patterns within data to help decision makers understand the information they are looking for and make more informed decisions.  For organizations to get the most out of their business intelligence applications, the added application of search needs to be looked at in this way – as a tool to enhance the visibility of information within the organization.

Taking search to the next level

Instead of using search as part of a business intelligence application, BI information should be one of the many types of information a search solution accesses.  With the ability to identify patterns, relationships and business value, broad search applications can provide organizations with more value than applying search within the limits of BI.  As data volumes expand exponentially, the number of documents, emails and other content residing in companies also grows.  This type of information is just as valuable and in some cases even more so when looking at how to make the most effective decisions.  While BI addresses structured content, search looks at unstructured information.  Combining the two can help companies cover all fronts of information flow within the organization.

Fraud detection provides a good example of the importance of combining analysis of both structured and unstructured content.  In many cases, insurance providers use analytics to identify suspicious patterns related to claims submissions.  The use of analytics identifies fraudulent claims submitted based on a series of algorithms that are applied during the submission process.  In other organizations, potentially fraudulent activity takes place in email communication.  The ability to search through content to identify trends and patterns in correspondence, documents and the like, enables the proactive identification of unacceptable corporate behavior.  Either way, both unstructured and structured data are required for pattern identification and information correlation.  In addition to detecting fraud, companies want to provide their customers with enhanced experiences or give employees greater visibility.  The cohesive use of search and BI lets companies do so most effectively.

Implementing search or BI

Even though the combination of search and BI in conjunction with one another might not be a reality for many companies, the fact remains that implementing each option independently also provides corporate value.  Because of the robust capabilities of each option and the fact that search can be embedded within BI and vice versa, businesses can adopt one platform and slowly build out more capabilities.

For search specifically, organizations can take capabilities to the next level by exploring patterns within content.  This provides business value by giving decision makers all of the information they require to make informed decisions.  Within business intelligence, companies can use search to identify created content to complement in-depth analyses.  The value of business intelligence and search, whether applied separately or together, is being able to get the whole picture of what is occurring within the company or with customers to make the best possible decision.

Overall, organizations that have resources to implement only one solution should look at the types of information or data they require.  Although search may be more mature within customer-facing applications, BI is also gaining popularity by providing  dashboards and ad hoc reports to customers.  This means that before choosing one type of solution over the other, businesses should identify what the goals of the solution are and how to best achieve them.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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