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Expanding the definition of Business Intelligence to fit modernity

The traditional definition of “Business Intelligence” is limited, restricting, and honestly, it can be improved and expanded so that businesses are able to receive the best possible information and inspiration for making business decisions.

Expanding the definition of Business Intelligence

In order to have a conversation about expanding the core definition of “Business Intelligence,” we have to start with the traditional definition of Business Intelligence (BI).

  • Business Intelligence is the process of identifying, extracting, and analyzing business data according to associated costs and incomes.

There also the commonly discussed subset of BI, Competitive Intelligence, which is typically defined as such.

  • Competitive Intelligence is the process behind early identification of risks and opportunities in the market.

The limitations of these definitions

While these definitions are certainly useful, and applicable within their self-defined parameters, we at AGBeat believe that they are fundamentally limited to a “left-brained” perspective1. That is to say that while academia has been working on understanding and integrating multiple intelligences for nearly three decades now, business seems to have lagged behind in this regard.

Interpersonal intelligence – also known as emotional intelligence – for example, may not factor into the traditional definition of business intelligence, but few would dispute that this “soft skill” can have a profound impact on business outcomes. Likewise, because we cannot measure intuition – that is, the right-brain’s innate ability to process patterns and therefore predict outcomes – we are unlikely to include it in any competitive intelligence process, useful though it may be.

However, much the way a musical prodigy can tie together an otherwise cacophonous collection of notes into a symphony – there are in fact “futurists” out there who consistently predict business trends.

Putting forth an alternative definition of business intelligence

In talking to BI professionals of great… well… intelligence, we were surprised to find that their definition of business intelligence was thus limited. They truly seem to focus, almost exclusively, on those processes that can be meticulously measured with current technology. Certainly, the problem with this approach is that it excludes the input of those whose abilities are beyond our ken – our business virtuosos, if you will. As such, AGBeat would like to put forth an alternative definition of business intelligence.

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  • True Business Intelligence is all information, systems, and processes that help people make better business decisions.

Competitive Intelligence in turn, without having to be redefined, takes on a whole new meaning. To understand that science is bigger than our understanding of it is to allow oneself the opportunity to learn from undefined genius.

At the end of the day, that is why AG exists – to deliver business intelligence to you, in all of its forms. If we need to expand the definition in order to do that, that is exactly what we will do. Don’t get us wrong, we won’t be hiring an astrologer, Tarot card reader, or any other meta-physical prognosticator any time soon. What we will be doing is continuing to seek out and deliver the information and inspiration that helps you drive your business forward each and every day.

1 Note: for the time-being, we will set aside the debate within circles of neuroscience, as to whether or not the left-right brain theory – as we have come to accept it – is correct.

Written By

Elijah is VP Strategic Development for advertising+technology company Orange142.



  1. Tinu Abayomi-Paul

    April 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Great article. You said “n talking to BI professionals of great… well… intelligence, we were surprised to find that their definition of business intelligence was thus limited. They truly seem to focus, almost exclusively, on those processes that can be meticulously measured with current technology.”

    I’ve also noticed that many futurists, as well as BI professionals, assume that we have all the information we need to predict the future. Not true, and allowing the important variable of flux helps us plot strategic moves much better.

    For example, one may not have been able to predict that Google+ was coming, or the eventual weight of its impact (Search Plus Your World). But when mapping the social trend, realizing it would intersect with the trend in search towards personalization and contextual matches, even without specific knowledge, people watching that space who allow for possible flux in the manifestation of their predictions prepared their audience for that ultimate intersection.

    In the late Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, they worshiped change as if it were God. Not to say anyone should go that far, but allowing for the resolution of the trend formula as a fluid entity instead of a fixed one is a much better answer that clinging to a static right/wrong model of trend plotting.

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