We’re not talking about Phi Beta Kappas, rocket scientists or crazy high IQs. Nor are we talking about the surveillance kind (think Edward Snowden). No, we are talking about the information kind and the varying levels and descriptions of what actually constitutes ‘intelligence.’ And no doubt you’ve heard the terms and taglines that have been typically associated with Big Data. It’s confusing, conflicting and downright mind numbing. So, truth be told, we believe that we are officially on intelligence overload. Because with so many plays on ‘intelligence’ how do you know what is applicable and necessary for your business? How do you know which kind of ‘intelligence’ you need? Well, for today, let’s focus on those that capture headlines and deliver results.
Artificial Intelligence – Affectionately referred to as AI, this is a sub-field of computer science with the goal being that computers can do things normally done by people -- in particular, things associated with people acting intelligently. Currently, no computers exhibit full artificial intelligence (that is, are able to simulate human behavior), though those that simulate game-playing against human opponents come awfully close (no, we are not talking about those blackjack slots in Vegas). Other types of AI include expert systems: programming computers to make decisions in real-life situations; natural language; robotics (self-driving cars); and neural networks (think voice recognition and natural-language processing).
Business Intelligence - Gartner defines BI as “An umbrella terms that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance. “ Phew. Ok, so simply put, it means this: your company has a lot of quantified information (i.e., customers, products, purchasing cycles, geography, industry, etc) and using BI tools helps make sense of all that data. Ideally, you’ll get a better view into your organizational operations and financial status so that you can do a better job managing your business. Simple query and reporting, online analytical processing, statistical analysis, forecasting and data mining are all examples of BI using your database.
Competitive Intelligence – CI essentially means understanding and learning what's happening in the world outside your business so you can be as competitive as possible. It means learning as much as possible - as soon as possible - about your industry in general, your competitors and business environment. This is straightforward information gathering from sources such as customer and competitor interviews, industry experts, trade shows and conferences, government records and public filings. Social monitoring and trending can often be thrown in this bucket though the definition goes as deep as dumpster diving and as unethical as hacking to learn about other companies.
Actionable Intelligence – Think of Actionable Intelligence as any information that would propel you in a positive direction against your peers. Yes, it sounds a lot like CI. In fact, ideally, all CI would be actionable. Though we’d like to think that all intelligence is ‘actionable’, but in terms of big data, there’s a great challenge that’s simply inherent in the volume of data being gathered. So while your team can gather intelligence on a variety of topics and from a variety of sources, not all of it will be applicable to the specific needs and the specific timing of your business. Vendors like to label their products as delivering actionable intelligence but in practice it is often wishful thinking and requires deep knowledge and tuning by the customer.