Business gets smart, video game style

January 20, 2010: 10:00 AM ET

Business Intelligence software is more like interactive gaming than you'd think.

By Wayne Morris, CEO, myDIALS.

Morris: New tools can take businesses to the next level. Photo: myDIALS.

Decision making in business should be easier than ever: Next generation business intelligence software gives everyone from entry-level employees to CEOs the ability to make important decisions from data that is clean, current, easy to access and, most importantly, interactive.

(We've come a long way from traditional intelligence solutions that relied on historical data that only statisticians and corporate analysts saw.)

At its heart, business intelligence software is a lot like an interactive video game, only instead of racking up points or getting to the finish line, the user of intelligence software "wins" when the software produces breakthrough data that can lead to actionable results.

Duty calls

Indeed, business intelligence software has evolved much the way video games have in recent years. Consider that the 1983 arcade game, Mario Brothers, involved only running and jumping. Fast forward to Call of Duty, the wildly popular first-person shooter video game series developed by Infinity Ward in 2009. Setting aside the violent content, Call of Duty makes Mario Brothers look positively prehistoric with an artificial intelligence design that makes players feel as though they are actually inside the game.

Innovative business intelligence solutions are also richer in functionality and share some of the same evolved user capabilities that are finely tuned to our selective consumer personas:

Personalization, filtering and contextGamers can select personalized avatars and control and switch to multiple players in the course of a single game. Similarly, business intelligence users can access and filter information based on their title and scope of authority, as well as change the context of information by "placing themselves in the shoes" of someone who is responsible for a particular aspect of the business.

What-if scenario analysisVideo games are no longer one- dimensional. Players can view scenes from multiple perspectives and angles, allowing them to examine the result of an action before they make it. They can, for example, look through a wall or behind an obstacle to see what lies ahead.

Business intelligence solutions offer the same crystal ball ability with forecasts and projections. This allows users to analyze data to predict future events and helps companies optimize corporate performance with 'what if' scenario analysis. Target (TGT) may wonder, "what if we sent 10,000 Apple (AAPL) iPod Nanos to the Bellevue, Wash., store instead of 5,000 and increased the amount of Garmin (GRMN) GPS systems shipped to Eugene, Ore.?" The right intelligence software would give Target decision makers an accurate, rapid response based on relevant customer and store data and contextual history.

CollaborationCollaboration is increasingly important in both gaming and business intelligence. In the case of business software, users can share knowledge, analysis, and expertise – within the context of a particular aspect of the business. For gamers, this is similar to taking advantage of multi-player attributes, such as seeking a lifeline or learning from other players around the world.

On-demand deliveryJust as gamers can now enjoy the ease of playing a web-based game, "business intelligence as a service" – or cloud-based intel – allows organizations to deploy, integrate or update applications with ease. Companies needn't worry about long lead times, resource headaches or the typical financial burdens involving buying, implementing and maintaining hardware or software.

Business intelligence is changing the "data game" as it becomes less about IT and more focused on delivering actionable insight to everyone making daily business and operational decisions. Today's new business solution puts the right information, in real-time, into more hands. Like all software, business intelligence will continue to evolve in order to keep up with changing behavior and demands, and we can all look forward to the many innovations yet to come.

Morris is CEO of myDIALS, a Louisville, Colo-based supplier of software and technology that provides companies with real-time metrics.

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