The Interplay of BI and Social Media


In order to address the role that Social Media plays in BI and vice versa, first let’s look at the identity that social media will take within the organization. I don’t believe it will look anything like Twitter or Facebook, but it will take ideas from it.

Social media within the corporate firewall will be secured, not only from the public, but within groups within the organization. The key focus will be sharing of information across the enterprise, between groups. Currently, the ways information is shared electronically in organizations is via email, chat, and collaborative portals such as Sharepoint. However, few would argue that any of these avenues currently has the appeal of a Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In. So, these avenues have to grow a little and borrow some of the ideas from popular social media channels, or alternatively, we should ditch those altogether and start afresh.

Social Media within an enterprise has to have a focus. For example, I raised the notion of a Decision Tracking System in an earlier post (distinct from the old notion of a Decision Support System, by the way, and simpler). This can be an application of social media within the enterprise. Decisions will be exposed within select groups and secured from others, but visible to all within that group and open to feedback from members within the group. Analyses put forward in support of the decision could also be added to discussion threads (see my earlier post on telling stories about the data). This could be one of the critical applications of social media within the enterprise.

Sharing knowledge across analysts could be another important application. I got this idea from talking to the head of BI of a well known movie rental and streaming service. This ties in with the story-telling notion as well. The idea is to allow analysts to share their analyses with each other and present their own thoughts along with it and get feedback. This would let folks learn from each other and not repeat each other’s mistakes. 

The more global an organization is, the more social media within the enterprise could have an impact. Think about how Facebook or Linked In have brought together people from across the globe. I have always felt a thrill at being able to connect with a like-minded thinker in Spain, Poland, Russia or elsewhere. It demonstrated to me how ideas can come from anywhere and that some people essentially think similar regardless of culture or geography. Now apply this notion to sharing ideas within the global organization’s many locations. My experience is that more people are likely to open up to a social media outlet than in conference calls or face-to-face meetings. And ideas often come in the middle of the night to creative thinkers.

If the social media application had a data or information focus, that is where BI can play a role, as a provider of the information and a basis for decisions made or conclusions derived. Snippets of BI would go into the analysis that supports the discussion thread. Or, the discussion thread itself may drive the need for new BI assets as well, driving the direction that BI should take.

If we had to take BI to the next level and really connect it to decision making, social media within the enterprise could play a big role in that. The need of the hour is to develop these thoughts into product ideas that would merge these concepts and free up the BI assets within the enterprise.

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