Social Business Intelligence

Social business intelligence is definitely one of the key buzzwords within the overall BI industry, and is one of the big trends to watch out for in 2012. With upcoming IPOs in the social sector, I expect it to grow in even more importance.

Most companies are just trying to get their arms around trends like Twitter and Facebook and understand how they fit into the overall business operation. Most organizations know to have a presence on these networks, and are cautiously using them as a way to interact with their customers and “fans”. Besides the more personal interaction, all of these likes, tweets, and posts end up creating huge amounts of data. It’s often in an unstructured form, unlike standard sales orders or purchases, and can include pictures, audio, links, and other non-standard data. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo pretty much created the concept of big data.

BI vendors have tried to address some of these data gathering, warehousing, and reporting issues, as well as social media consulting companies. Most of the social media groups are focused more on the front end, ie how to staff your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Technologies like Hadoop and generic shared server processing has made handling the data somewhat manageable on the hardware side, at least for storage. Creating effective reports is still a challenge.

Microstrategy has put together some initial technology to address some of these issues. Its Gateway tool is designed to interface with Facebook information and work to populate a standard business intelligence data warehouse. It has some pre-built reporting objects built in with some “standard” social media reports. Its also not front-end focused on account and customer service operations.

EvoApp is a socially focused business intelligence vendor, with a platform that is designed to link social data with the traditional back-end sources like SAP and Oracle. They also offer tools to help manage the customer service aspect of social, so they are kind of a hybrid social media/BI tool play.The reality is that since a lot of the technology and trends are so new, companies will probably need a couple solutions to really manage it effectively.

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