• Course Introduction

        • Time: 83 hours
        • Free Certificate
        Business management teams need good information to function. Having a strong business intelligence team supports data-driven decision-making at all levels and at all stages of an enterprise's lifecycle. Of course, having data alone is not enough. Knowing how to collect, filter, and analyze data and then report the intelligence gleaned from it ensures that management teams have what they need to make informed decisions. Business intelligence (BI) involves collecting, analyzing, and presenting data from reliable sources in formats that help the management team understand and use it efficiently. Throughout this graduate-level course, we will explore how BI can be used in every stage of the decision-making lifecycle and how and when to focus on specific BI applications and approaches. From start-up through growth periods, to competition battles, through maturity and reinvestment or reinvention to prevent decline, business intelligence provides critical information about all aspects of the firm's health and prospects. Throughout the course, we will explore the use of BI in every stage of the life cycle to understand how and when to focus on BI applications and approaches. For a real-world example, consider how you make decisions for yourself or your family. When you shop, do you choose products based on price? Packaging? Whether they're on sale? If you have a coupon? The prestige of the brand? A friend's or expert's recommendation? Product reviews? We collect and synergize this kind of information daily without thinking about how we do it. In this course, we will break down how businesses conduct this process at a larger scale – from recognizing a need to fulfilling it – just like you do when making decisions.  If you choose the wrong brand of shampoo, your family will get over it, but when a business makes the wrong choice, its bottom line suffers, and the company itself may fail to survive. This is the value of BI.

        • Course Syllabus

          First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

        • Unit 1: Business Intelligence Overview

          Business Intelligence (BI) has had a long evolutionary path to being recognized as a distinct discipline. For decades it was lumped in with data processing and systems analysis, which are inputs to the BI process, but BI adds the forecasting and actionable information that supports business decisions. In addition, BI was, and still is, often discussed as synonymous with Competitive Intelligence (CI), now also a separate discipline. Both analyze data to provide forecasting and actionable intelligence to support business decision-making, but BI is focused inward on the business itself and how it can improve its structure, processes, and approaches. CI is focused externally on understanding trends in the business environment, and its market and how technology and other disruptors can change the environment in which it operates to ensure the business is primed to adapt to environmental changes before, not as they occur. BI is often located in the C-suite, supporting decisions related to improving operations and the firm's strategic direction. CI is typically colocated with Marketing. While many of their inputs, methods, and processes may be similar, their products are as different as night and day due to this internal vs. external dichotomy. Business intelligence is about obtaining, storing, accessing, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting actionable information that the management team can use to make effective decisions. Our understanding of business intelligence processes has changed substantially over the last century, as have the tools we use. In this unit, we will look at the history of BI, how it is used today, and how needs will likely change. You will be able to describe how business intelligence concepts and processes have changed over time due to business needs and technological change.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 15 hours.

        • Unit 2: BI as Business Support

          Human decision-making is a complex process. This is because humans are complex. No matter what your business is, running it successfully requires dozens, if not hundreds, of tactical decisions every day by each staff member. These can be as simple as whether individuals prioritize incoming emails or concerted project time for the first three hours in the office. Operational decisions are more complex than these simple daily decisions as they can change how the organization functions over months or years. These can also relate to personnel in terms of process improvements, training, or recruitment. They can also relate to larger operational decisions on how the business runs or what it produces. The most complex decisions, however, are strategic decisions, as they determine the direction of the business for years to come. Decisions at all levels require thoughtful consideration and, typically, data to be made most effectively. Having lots of data is never enough, however. How it is used, understood, and then applied is the complex process that management must deal with, in addition to measuring just how effective those decisions have been on the business' short- and long-term success. This is the value that business intelligence (BI) can bring to a firm that can collect and use data effectively. Whether decisions are big or small also depends on the business itself. Opening a second location is an enormous strategic decision for a small coffee shop. For Starbucks, however, it is tactical. According to Wikipedia, as of early 2020, there were 30,000 Starbucks locations globally. If it turned out to be a mistake to open a Starbucks in a single location and it did not do well, Starbucks could easily absorb the cost. A small coffee shop may not recover from the error. At the same time, Starbucks is unlikely to make the wrong decision because it can access and use massive amounts of data to open new locations. A small shop will likely rely more on the owner's intuition or "gut".

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

        • Unit 3: Data Mining and Text Mining

          How do business intelligence teams get the information they need to support management teams' decisions? The human brain cannot process even a fraction of the vast amount of information available to it. Technology has evolved to let us access, organize, and filter massive datasets. What exactly are data and text mining? The academic definition is "a multi-disciplinary field based on information retrieval, data mining, machine learning, statistics, and computational linguistics". Essentially, data mining is the process of analyzing a large data set to identify relevant patterns. Text mining is analyzing text data that is in an unstructured format and mapping it into a structured format to derive relevant insights. This unit looks at some common uses and techniques for data and text mining.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 12 hours.

        • Unit 4: Data Warehousing and Integration

          Once your data is mined and cleaned, it needs to be stored in a useful way for BI teams. As the uses for information have grown, technologies like collection and analysis software and dashboards have been developed to keep up with the demand. This unit explores the methods used to access, use, and secure information. Simply put, a data warehouse (DW) is just a warehouse holding all the relevant data. However, data warehousing requires designers to map data between source and target models, capturing the details of the transformation in a metadata repository. Tools that support these various modeling, mapping, and documentation activities are known as DW design tools. What of Data Integration? DI is a family of techniques and best practices that repurpose data by transforming it as it's moved. What information do you "extract" from units; how do you organize the pages; whether you use diagrams; how do you process the information "transform", and what, after weighing up, are your concluding thoughts that you share with others "load". Those are examples of your data integration, the most common form of DI in data warehousing.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.

        • Unit 5: Data Analytics

          Data analytics is the "thinking" part of BI. Once the information has been mined, organized, and stored, the analyst must access it through structured queries. The analysis process applies rigorous methodologies to study information and interpret the results. Using these methodologies allows the analyst to determine how the information relates to the needs of their management team. Data analysis is often done using dashboards such as Tableau. Analytics is where information becomes intelligence. It is transformed from disparate data points that can be described in terms of data sets into patterns resulting from the analysis. This is where the real brainwork of the analytic process takes place. The methods are myriad and highly dependent upon the available inputs and requirements for your particular project.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 8 hours.

        • Unit 6: Data Reporting and Visualization

          Analysis is useless if it is not reported in a way that helps management teams make decisions. Data reporting is the process of collecting and submitting data. Data visualization is putting data into a chart, graph, or other visual formats that help inform analysis and interpretation. Great definitions, but what does that truly mean? While we are becoming more connected by reporting the "numbers" of the world, how do we show that those numbers are assisting in our growth as humans? How we develop and utilize machines is where that power comes into play. The "seeing" or data visualization of the numbers allows more people to understand complex issues, participate, and contribute. To easily digest information, reports must be created that cover the right content and be formatted in a way that makes the results of the analysis clear. Data collection and exploitation is the "science" of analysis, and reporting and visualization are the "art".

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 15 hours.

        • Unit 7: Data Analysis Dashboards

          BI uses computers to exploit data, but humans and computers understand data differently. Effective organizations ensure that their data is presented in ways that help their teams interact with it and use it to make decisions. BI dashboards help to make information accessible and useful for many purposes, such as monitoring and evaluation, personnel and activity management, procurement and inventory, pricing, and more. The visualization delivered through dashboards allows large, otherwise overwhelming amounts of data to be easily digestible and understandable. Identifying what the data means allows for more informed and relevant business decisions. Dashboards provide a place for interacting, evaluating, connecting, and visualizing data from multiple sources. While dashboards provide greater visibility with information available, this comes with limitations, including but not limited to attempts to incorporate too much information without understanding constraints, coupled with no predetermined rules for how the metrics should be used. All of this results in clunky, non-usable data.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.
        • Unit 8: Project Management

          This final unit brings the process of business intelligence production together. Once analysts make their estimates or assessments, the management team has to determine how to turn the information into action. The organization's health and future depend upon its intelligence. There are various ways to manage the process, from the daily operations of the analytic team to information integration throughout the organization for optimal decision-making at all levels. It is one thing to be a member of an analyst team, but when people notice that you are so well-trained and good at your work, they will find opportunities to challenge your skills, and you will find yourself increasingly placed in project management roles. To be prepared, think of project management as the glue that holds the process together. If a project is poorly managed, it will likely go off the rails. No wonder how well the individual analysts or other team members perform, as there will be no cohesion and no certainty that all requirements are fully met. As you go through this unit, record your thoughts and lessons learned. Then, try to identify 3–5 rules for project management that you can take to your next project, either to implement yourself as the manager or to evaluate your manager against. They can even help you coach and guide your peers.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.

        • Study Guide

          This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

        • Course Feedback Survey

          Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses. If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org.

        • Certificate Final Exam