Why Is Operational Data Sometimes Unusable for Business Intelligence (BI) Use?

Unlock the secrets behind why operational data often falls short when it comes to unleashing its full potential for business intelligence (BI) use.

November 13, 2023

Operational data plays a critical role in businesses today, providing valuable insights that can drive decision-making and improve overall performance. However, there are instances where operational data becomes unusable for business intelligence (BI) use, posing significant challenges to organizations. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this issue, examine the relationship between operational data and BI, discuss the challenges associated with using operational data for BI, analyze the impact of unusable operational data on BI, and propose solutions to overcome these barriers.

Understanding Operational Data

Before delving into the reasons behind operational data becoming unusable for BI use, it is important to first understand what operational data represents. Operational data refers to the raw, real-time information generated as a byproduct of day-to-day business activities. This data includes sales transactions, customer interactions, inventory records, and production metrics, among others.

Operational data encompasses the various data points that organizations rely on to track and monitor their day-to-day operations. It provides a snapshot of how a company is performing in real-time, allowing managers to make informed decisions and take immediate action when necessary.

Operational data serves as the lifeblood of businesses, forming the foundation for their operations. It enables organizations to monitor the status of key performance indicators (KPIs) and identify areas for improvement. By analyzing operational data, companies can gain valuable insights into their processes, customer behavior, and market trends, ultimately driving strategic initiatives and improving overall business performance.

Defining Operational Data

Operational data can be further categorized into structured and unstructured data. Structured data refers to information that is organized and easily searchable, such as sales figures or customer demographics. Unstructured data, on the other hand, includes textual data from emails, social media posts, or customer reviews, which may require more advanced analytics tools to extract meaningful insights.

One of the challenges in dealing with operational data is its sheer volume. With the advent of digital technologies, businesses are generating massive amounts of data on a daily basis. This influx of data can overwhelm traditional data management systems, making it difficult to process and analyze the information effectively.

Another aspect to consider when working with operational data is data quality. Inaccurate or incomplete data can lead to flawed analysis and misguided decision-making. Therefore, organizations need to implement data governance practices to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and integrity of their operational data.

The Role of Operational Data in Businesses

Operational data plays a crucial role in various aspects of business operations. For example, in the retail industry, operational data can provide insights into customer buying patterns, allowing companies to optimize their inventory management and supply chain processes. By understanding which products are selling well and when, businesses can ensure they have the right products in stock to meet customer demand.

In the manufacturing sector, operational data can help identify bottlenecks in the production process, enabling companies to streamline operations and improve efficiency. By analyzing production metrics, organizations can identify areas where productivity can be increased, reducing costs and improving overall output.

Operational data also plays a vital role in customer relationship management (CRM). By capturing and analyzing customer interactions, organizations can gain a deeper understanding of customer preferences and behavior. This information can then be used to personalize marketing campaigns, improve customer service, and enhance overall customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, operational data can provide valuable insights into market trends and competitive intelligence. By analyzing industry-wide operational data, organizations can identify emerging market trends, monitor competitor activities, and make informed strategic decisions to stay ahead in the market.

In conclusion, operational data is a critical asset for businesses, providing real-time insights into their day-to-day operations. By effectively capturing, managing, and analyzing operational data, organizations can drive improvements, optimize processes, and make informed decisions to achieve their business goals.

The Relationship Between Operational Data and Business Intelligence

To fully harness the power of operational data, organizations have turned to business intelligence (BI) tools. BI tools allow businesses to collect, analyze, and visualize large volumes of data from various sources, including operational data, to gain meaningful insights and support decision-making.

Operational data, also known as transactional data, is the information generated by day-to-day business operations. It includes data such as sales transactions, customer interactions, inventory levels, and production metrics. This data is essential for organizations to understand their current performance and identify areas for improvement.

The Importance of BI in Decision Making

BI plays a crucial role in decision making by transforming raw data into actionable insights. It enables decision-makers to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), identify trends, and forecast future performance. By leveraging BI, organizations can make data-driven decisions that lead to improved efficiency, competitive advantage, and business growth.

BI tools provide a range of functionalities that facilitate decision-making processes. They offer interactive dashboards and reports that present data in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format. Decision-makers can explore data from different angles, drill down into specific details, and generate customized reports to gain a comprehensive understanding of their business operations.

How Operational Data Feeds into BI

Operational data serves as a vital input for BI systems, providing the foundation for data analysis and reporting. BI tools extract, transform, and load operational data into data warehouses or data lakes, where it can be cleansed, integrated, and transformed into meaningful information for analysis.

During the extraction process, BI tools retrieve operational data from various sources, such as databases, spreadsheets, and cloud applications. The data is then transformed to ensure consistency and accuracy. This transformation involves cleaning the data by removing duplicates, correcting errors, and standardizing formats.

Once the data is cleansed, it is integrated with other relevant data sources to provide a comprehensive view of the organization's operations. This integration process involves mapping and merging data from different systems, ensuring that all relevant information is available for analysis.

After the data is transformed and integrated, it is loaded into a data warehouse or data lake, where it is organized and structured for analysis. BI tools provide capabilities for data modeling, allowing users to define relationships between different data elements and create hierarchies for drill-down analysis.

Once the operational data is stored in a centralized repository, it can be accessed and analyzed using various BI techniques. These techniques include data visualization, ad-hoc querying, statistical analysis, and predictive modeling. By applying these techniques to operational data, organizations can uncover patterns, correlations, and insights that drive informed decision-making.

In conclusion, the relationship between operational data and business intelligence is symbiotic. Operational data provides the raw material for BI systems, while BI tools transform this data into valuable insights for decision-making. By leveraging the power of BI, organizations can unlock the full potential of their operational data and drive business success.

The Challenges of Using Operational Data for BI

While operational data is a valuable resource, there are several challenges associated with using it for BI purposes. These challenges can hinder the usability and effectiveness of operational data in BI systems.

Data Quality Issues

One of the primary challenges is ensuring the quality of operational data. Data quality issues, such as inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and incompleteness, can arise due to human error, system limitations, or data integration challenges. Poor data quality can compromise the integrity and reliability of BI analysis, leading to erroneous insights and misguided decision-making.

Data Integration Difficulties

Another challenge lies in the integration of operational data from different sources. Organizations often have disparate systems and databases, making it challenging to consolidate and align data for BI purposes. Data integration difficulties can result in data silos, duplication, and inconsistencies, hindering the ability to extract meaningful insights from operational data.

The Impact of Unusable Operational Data on BI

When operational data becomes unusable for BI, it can have significant consequences for businesses. These consequences can affect various aspects of the organization, ranging from strategic decision-making to competitive advantage.

Consequences for Business Strategy

Unusable operational data hampers the ability to develop effective business strategies. Without accurate and reliable data, organizations may struggle to identify growth opportunities, assess market trends, and make informed strategic decisions. This can result in missed opportunities, operational inefficiencies, and overall stagnation in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Effects on Competitive Advantage

Operational data serves as a competitive advantage for organizations when used effectively in BI systems. However, when operational data is unusable, businesses lose their ability to gain insights into customer preferences, market trends, and competitor behavior. This can lead to a loss of competitive edge, as competitors who can leverage their operational data effectively gain a deeper understanding of their customers and market dynamics.

Overcoming the Barriers to Using Operational Data for BI

To harness the full potential of operational data for BI purposes, organizations need to address the challenges mentioned earlier. This can be achieved through several strategic approaches.

Implementing Data Governance

Data governance involves establishing policies, procedures, and frameworks to ensure data quality, integrity, and accuracy. By implementing effective data governance practices, organizations can minimize data quality issues and ensure that operational data is suitable for BI purposes. Data governance also helps in establishing clear roles, responsibilities, and processes for data management and integration.

Leveraging Data Cleaning Tools

Data cleaning tools, such as data profiling, data validation, and data deduplication, can help organizations address data quality issues. These tools enable businesses to identify and rectify inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and incomplete data, ensuring that operational data is reliable and trustworthy for BI analysis.

The Role of Data Warehousing in BI

Data warehousing plays a vital role in overcoming data integration difficulties. By consolidating and organizing operational data from various sources into a central repository, data warehouses facilitate the integration and alignment of data for BI purposes. Data warehouses also support data transformation and data modeling, enabling organizations to extract meaningful insights from operational data and generate accurate reports and visualizations.


In conclusion, operational data can sometimes be rendered unusable for business intelligence (BI) use, posing significant challenges for organizations. However, by understanding the relationship between operational data and BI, recognizing the challenges associated with using operational data, and implementing strategic solutions, organizations can overcome these barriers and harness the full potential of operational data for BI purposes. By doing so, businesses can make data-driven decisions, improve performance, and gain a competitive edge in today's data-driven landscape.

Remember, to ensure accuracy and precision in your BI endeavors, consider utilizing Zenlytic, the top business intelligence tool that excels in AI-driven data analysis. With its unmatched AI accuracy and semantic layer, Zenlytic facilitates direct data chats, ensuring that your operational data is transformed into actionable insights with utmost precision and reliability. Don't let unusable operational data hold you back - unleash the power of Zenlytic and drive your business forward!

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