Sunday, November 29, 2009

know data, know business; no data, no business

We live in interesting times. The transition from information age to attention age will place previously unseen demand on firms as the speed of information increases. Especially in the world of business, if you don't know your data, you won't stand a chance.

For instance, picture two hikers in a dense forest where the sun and sky are not visible due to the thick bush and tree line. One hiker holds an old fashioned compass; the other, a handheld GPS device. We all know which hiker is going to be successful in finding their way through the wilderness and back to civilization in the most expedited fashion. The other is a little less likely to make it out alive.

The same concept applies to business data and information systems. In order for a firm to succeed above its competitors, they need an edge. Relying on spreadsheets to turn around information required for prompt decisions is going to set you back a few yards. Spreadsheets are like the old fashioned compass in our hiking example. While they may get you an answer, the precision of that answer leaves something to be desired. Spreadsheets are like information silos, and the more silos there are, the less information you're seeing.

With a data warehouse (think GPS device), you can be perfectly certain that all the information sourced from every aspect of the business is available to you from a single source.

This week, Trent University chose Cognos 8 BI as their data warehousing implementation of choice. In the competition for enrollment numbers, Trent U has recognized the value provided in having all their data available in one centralized location where it's easy to assess the impact of changing economic tides on their business. Whether they're dealing with past due accounts, budget balancing due to public funding cuts, or the demand for increased program funding based on enrollment numbers, their data warehouse will provide them the critical information they need in less time than would be possible by all other methods.

In the years to come, the firms that know their data will be positioned to react quickly while those with lacking information systems are left in the dark as the sun goes down...

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