A journey towards BI in the age of AI

By Vinay Santosh 

Amid the rise of AI in a post pandemic work force and increasingly worrying global crises, we often fear if our jobs are at risk of being replaced by machine learning algorithms. This in my opinion is a good fear to have. It indicates progress and growth towards building a better world. This specific period in history will determine the way people, organisations, and industries function in the years to come. Jobs are and always will be ever changing, demanding of new skillsets. 

A couple years ago, before the COVID 19 pandemic, I was making hand made tortillas with corn sourced from a private farm in Oaxaca at a one Michelin star restaurant in Toronto. I would also be flipping burgers at a local burger joint when I was not working at the fine dining establishment. In the summer I would sell Bánh mì sandwiches at the farmers market with the freshest of ingredients around me. I was trained to be a cook and gathered all the essential skills necessary to succeed in that role. It was almost impossible to foresee the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry and the livelihood of restaurant workers. 

Many restaurants and small business around the world had to close their doors as they were unable to sustain without an inflow of customers dining in. I observed that restaurants with the latest software and management systems were able to find ways to stay open during these times. They were able to reduce their staff by more than half and yet bring in as much revenue as they would at full capacity. Some businesses transformed into online stores while some restructured their business models to be a fully-fledged take-out system with their own delivery app thus eliminating a third-party vendor. All these changes were possible only with the help of smarter technologies and intuitive customized applications. Restaurants were able to get rid of rigid ordering systems and replaced them with automated flows where a customer was able to order food to the table without even speaking to any member of the staff. This also allowed the chefs to view orders instantly in monitors placed within kitchens. This eliminated multiple levels of staffing and the errors that would usually be made by human interactions. It was impossible for orders to be misplaced and were easier to track. Chefs were also able to keep track of inventory and avoid food wastage with the help of built in software. Businesses that transitioned online were able to sell products at any time without the fear of losing out customers due to restrictions or bad weather. The data collected from these processes helped managers and owners to analyse and make key business decisions. 

This instigated my journey towards Business Intelligence and Data Analysis. Business Intelligence encompasses the process of collecting, analysing, and interpreting data to make informed business decisions. BI Analysts use a range of tools and techniques to gather and analyse data from a variety of sources, including internal databases, market research, customer feedback, and social media. As a Business Intelligence Analyst my role is to sift through mounds of data, uncover hidden patterns, and turn them into actionable insights. This requires a strong analytical mindset, excellent communication skills, and a deep understanding of the business. BI Analysts play a critical role in helping organizations make informed decisions based on data analysis. However, they face several challenges in their work, including: 

  • • Data Quality: BI analysts often work with data from various sources and systems, and ensuring the quality of that data can be a major challenge. Inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent data can lead to incorrect insights and decisions. 
  • • Data Integration: Bringing together data from disparate sources and systems is a complex process that requires significant technical expertise. BI analysts may have to deal with issues such as data format, data consistency, and data validation. 
  • • Data Security: BI analysts work with sensitive data, and ensuring its security is critical. This involves securing the data from unauthorized access, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations, and preventing data breaches. 
  • • Stakeholder Management: BI analysts often work with various stakeholders, such as business leaders, data scientists, and IT professionals. Balancing the needs and priorities of these different groups can be a challenge, particularly when there are conflicting goals or perspectives. 
  • • Technical Expertise: BI analysts need to be skilled in various technical areas, including data modelling, database design, data analysis, and data visualization. Keeping up with the latest technologies and techniques in these areas can be a challenge, particularly as the field of data analysis evolves rapidly. 
  • • Communication: BI analysts must be able to effectively communicate their findings to stakeholders who may not have a technical background. This requires the ability to translate complex data into clear, actionable insights that can inform decision-making. 

One of the biggest advantages of AI in the field of data science is its ability to process large volumes of data quickly and accurately. This means that we can identify trends and patterns that would have been impossible to uncover before. The rise of AI has transformed the way organizations approach Business Intelligence. With the help of AI, BI Analysts can now process and analyse data at a scale that was previously unimaginable. This has allowed organizations to gain insights into customer behaviour, market trends, and operational efficiency that were previously hidden. 

AI has also made it possible for BI Analysts to use predictive analytics to forecast future trends and make proactive decisions. This allows organizations to stay ahead of the curve and respond quickly to changes in the market. 

Having worked as a chef, I understand the problems faced if we rely too heavily on exotic ingredients or only complicated, labour-intensive cooking techniques. Most times, working with ingredients that are readily available and coming up with recipes that are easy to execute can work better for the business. Likewise, we must be careful not to rely too heavily on AI to do all our tasks. After all, data is only as good as the person interpreting it. As an analyst, it’s my job to understand the context and nuances of the data and to provide meaningful insights that will help my clients make informed decisions. 

The future of Business Intelligence is exciting, with AI expected to play an even more significant role in the years to come. As AI continues to evolve, BI Analysts will have access to even more advanced tools and techniques to process and analyse data. 

So, while AI has certainly brought new tools and flavours to the table, being a Business Intelligence Analyst still requires a curious mind, a sharp eye for detail, and willingness to constantly learn and adapt. Akin to a perfectly crafted dish that hits the right notes on the palate, the insights we provide can make all the difference in the success of a business. 

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