BI crucial for corporate success in Covid times

BI crucial for corporate success in Covid times

In the age of knowledge ushered in by the IT revolution, success in business is mandated on the corporate entity being well-informed about the environ around and committed to knowledge-based decision making

In the age of knowledge ushered in by the IT revolution, success in business is mandated on the corporate entity being well-informed about the environ around and committed to knowledge-based decision making – the latter being the new hallmark of leadership, different from the past in as much as no one could claim any more to be a leader mainly on the strength of 'inheritance' or personal 'charisma'.

The Covid disaster disrupted not only the flow of relevant information from outside needed by businesses, but also the internal processes of communication and evaluation of where the organisation and its manpower stand in the scheme of things.

In the new age, 'competitiveness' has acquired a global dimension because the use of information or data could enable a 'smart' player to score over a bigger rival in a 'borderless' market – this challenger could be operating out of any place on the globe.

Corporate houses, therefore, are investing a great deal on establishing a system that would guarantee access to information about the external factors impacting business -- such as political environ and the contours of policy making by the government, law and order management, state of economy, including the quantum of 'demand', socio-cultural preferences and discordance, if any, and technological advancement existing in the identified geography.

The term Business Intelligence is now being used for a wide variety of information gathering arrangements -- perhaps without an adequate understanding of the difference that exists between the words 'Information' and 'Intelligence'.

Intelligence is by definition information that tells you 'what lies ahead'. It is thus clear that all intelligence is information but all information is not intelligence. Between two 'peak performers' who have the same knowledge of the past and a matching capability of handling all matters in the present, the only thing that would put one ahead of the other is intelligence or the insight into the future.

Business Intelligence output has now become more a test of competent analysis that would provide an 'insight' into the future -- earlier BI was mostly engaged in the collation of raw data to identify business trends in general. Business Intelligence unit today must grasp the significance of Albert Einstein's famous saying that "Imagination is more important than knowledge".

Only a human mind has the ability to look beyond what the available facts or data mean in the present to read into what could happen in the period ahead. A standing example in this context is the 9/11 Commission report that faulted CIA for not showing enough imagination in handling the available information to the effect that some suspects taking training in a flying club on the US soil were interested only in learning how to take off but not in the technique of 'landing.' Use of the human trait of 'imagination' has a bearing on the rising expectations from Artificial Intelligence(AI) or Machine Learning as the tools for Business Intelligence.

AI no doubt multiplies the capacity of the organisation to analyse data from newer angles and derive benefits from that in such areas as the handling of human resources, maintaining productivity and what is extremely important in Covid environ, identifying the points of 'course correction' for quick action.

Business Intelligence, however, will always be a cross between technology application and interpretation of social conduct of the people in a given environment – that the latter would always be a function of human mind should never be forgotten. The fundamental point to remember is that both 'business' and 'intelligence' are all about human activity.

Analysis will have to be nuanced and imaginative and not rigid about the parameters applied in earlier normal times. Merits of good analysis – using only reliable data, keeping it free of personal bias and not tweaking the readings to please the 'masters' – will, however, always hold.

Covid has speeded up the movement of socio-economic life towards a new normal and this is an 'evolutionary' shift that would come to stay.

Importance of upskilling, reskilling and multi-tasking will be realised, flexibility about work place without detriment to productivity will intrinsically promote work-life balance and the cause of harmonious technology-social equation will be buttressed. BI has to cope up with these transformative factors.

A directionless BI can neither set the course for a future strategy, nor can it work for internal reforms like optimal use of man power, changed yardsticks of performance measure and cost-effectiveness of operations. Setting the goals for BI and owning its deductions is what a successful business organisation must do to keep up its competitive advantage.

(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau)

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