It is worth noting that no such definition should ever be seen as prescriptive. Any local solutions will inevitably diverge from a single definition in one way or another. As a result it may be more instructive to consider what does or does not constitute a BI system by the degree to which it conforms to an agreed checklist of criteria.
Some of which can be classified as ‘required’ (that is to say if the system in question is not able to demonstrate the attribute in question then it is questionable how appropriate it is to describe it as a ‘BI system’) and those which are ‘desirable’ (which it is not necessary for a system to demonstrate in order to still be described as a BI system, but some or all of which it might still be expected to display).
The following table outlines the attributes that our research has suggested are either required or desirable from a BI system.
Accessible when needed
|Automatically updated in real time, or|
|Concise, pictorial or graphical||Can be refreshed at the user’s command (to update figures when desired)|
|Up to date, current||Includes external information sources|
|Known update times and intervals||Complete|
|Can select data for [any, or defined] time period||Different (pre-designed) pictorial formats available|
|Good, reliable quality and integrity of data items||New pictorial formats are easily designed and implemented (even by a normal user)|
|[All, major] internal information sources are included||Fixed views can be set, with suitable security, for public, student, and some staff users|
|Drill-down and roll-up capabilities (zoom in or zoom out; allowing broader or narrower views, as the user requires)|
|Easy to understand|
|Easy to export to a presentation or document|
|Easy to add new information sources (internal or external)|
|Allows the user to ask “What if… ?” questions|