Miguel Molina Cosculluela
CEO, MySollars.com & World Climate Credit
Miguel is currently the CEO of World Climate Credit and MySollars.com. Prior to this he worked as... more>>
I’d like to take a step back and go back to the basics for one second. Business Intelligence rarely produces transactional information as an output, as most of the times data is aggregated from different sources, providing a scenario that supports the decision making process. And even though Business Intelligence has been around for several years now, lately I’ve noticed that this concept is not always clear.
To illustrate the usage of BI I will state an example; Over the last year I’ve been working on an innovative and meaningful marketing solution called MySollars.com, where companies as part of their marketing and CSR sponsor consumers to compensate their carbon emissions. As a value added for companies, we provide Business Intelligence reports, reflecting the behavior and preferences of the consumers. As you might imagine for consumers to compensate their emissions they need to calculate them first, and this generates extremely interesting information on our community behavior.
When I’m explaining this benefit to companies, quite frequently I get the question on whether this service might be violating the consumers’ privacy. And of course, my answer goes back to explain the basics of business intelligence; aggregated data that by the angle of visualization turns into information. There is no customer information. I’ve seen few cases though (Sales CRM, Loyalty and MVC Reporting) where the consumer’s personal information is the output of BI.
Securing the Data Sources
In its most basic sense, transactions are consolidated through a process called ETL (Extraction, transformation and loading), where it loads the relevant information into a different structure. Without jumping into details it is in the best interest of all organizations to keep this information as secure and confidential as possible. However, the real violation to the consumers’ privacy would not come from this aggregation but from a breach of the source database.
Cloud BI is becoming more popular, as companies are deflecting from hosting servers, so now most small and medium companies can have access to sophisticated BI tools at a minimal cost. Where’s the security catch? These companies, to keep things simple for the Cloud BI provider, need to upload their transactional data, at least most of the times into the cloud, thus facilitating the exposure of sensitive information. The debate about the security concerns from using a service based on the cloud has been highly discussed, with opinions all over the gradient. My two cents here goes mainly to small and medium companies, with limited IT resources to keep their infrastructure as protected as a company that is in the business of handling data. Having said that, it is always a good idea to ask your provider about their security measures, tests they perform on their servers, actually… on your servers.
There are always exceptions that confirm the rule; however Business Intelligence should rarely be a target to discuss the consumer’s privacy concerns; given its natural behavior towards aggregating data and residing on a different location from the transactional databases. If you’re a company looking for an organization to help you execute any BI project, try always to be clear on how security is managed, on and off the cloud.
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