There’s an evolving conversation at ebizQ about BI, questioning if BI is forward or backward looking (is it like driving while looking at the rear-view mirror?).
I’d say that driving without a look at the rear mirror can be quite dangerous. Rather than being holistic, we should consider BI as one technology which contributes to better management, rather than as an isolated panacea.
If you can apply BI to on-going data in order to make near real-time decisions, then you are not just looking backwards. Say that you approach traffic lights, and the green blinks announcing that it would soon turn to red. Should you hit the accelerator or the breaks? If your BI can give this answer, taking into account past behaviour and data as well as present data (speed, location, …) – then you have a good implementation.
We see this kind of implementation more and more. In the context of Process Management, one of the fast growing products (Appian) actually stems from BI and applies this technology to many facets of their product. Other BPM vendors do similar things. BI is also increasingly integrated in the Office environment with add-on products such as Panorama.
To conclude with a broader perspective, let’s not underestimate the relevance of history. History is part of our present and certainly impacts our future, and those who have a good understanding and insight of history usually are able to better interpret the present and make sound decisions about the future. I thing that this is what BI helps us do.