Data Mart or Data Warehouse?
How Semantics Applies to Business Intelligence
Why Is External Data Important to Your Data Warehouse?

The Main Categories of Business Intelligence

At the outset of your data warehousing project, don’t focus on the type of tools you need — yet. Instead, concentrate on figuring out the types of questions users will ask against the data warehouse’s contents, the types of reports that will be run and for what purposes, and the general models of processing that will occur.

To help you get past hype, buzzwords, and techno-jargon, use the model shown in this table, which describes the four categories of business intelligence functionality.

Business Intelligence Categories
Type Information You Want
Basic querying and reporting “Tell me what happened.”
Business analysis (OLAP) “Tell me what happened and why.”
Data mining “Tell me what might happen” or “Tell me something interesting.”
Dashboards and scorecards “Tell me a lot of things, but don’t make me work too hard.”

Each of the four categories in this table describes a way of accessing data, doing something with the information that’s retrieved, and providing information to whomever requested it. Each category, however, has different attributes.

Basic querying and reporting largely represents the traditional uses of data for analytical purposes. The data is retrieved in accordance with either regular standard reports or in response to a particular question (an ad hoc query, for example); and then it’s formatted and presented to the user in a specific format, either on-screen or in a printout. The interaction model is usually a set of regular, predictable steps:

  1. Make a data request.

  2. Retrieve the data.

  3. Manipulate the data slightly.

    Summarize or reorganize, for example, if necessary.

  4. Format the data.

  5. Present the data.

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