It's time for the BI community to treat social networks as the business-intelligence resource they are. (BI is more than reports, dashboards, and OLAP!) The recent "Motrin moms" clamor and response to Mumbai terrorism prove networks' value. Both cases involved twitter, the first as a conduit for advertising-prompted outrage and the second for early and rapid news dissemination. It has become clear that twitter and the rest of a broad set of social networks — as messaging / blogging / microblogging channels and as a means of publishing and finding personal and corporate information — hold immense business value. The value of the information that flows through these networks is indisputable. A deeper challenge is next on the agenda: optimizing that flow by better understanding the networks themselves.Social networks are composed of individuals and interconnections. The value of the networks derives in part from the intentionality of the connections: that connected individuals are somehow related. The relationships mean that user-originated, peer-filtered narrowcasts can propagate more effectively than broadcasts as well as faster and wider than the nearest, non-automated analogue I can think of, a phone treeThe networks' potential business value seems almost obvious, yet traditional BI, reliant on spreadsheets, reports, and pivot tables, has concerned itself almost exclusively with slicing and dicing numerical data extracted from transactional and operational systems.
A business is ultimately about people and conversations (not processes, IT systems, policies, or whatever). As people and their conversations are made explicit online by social software, an organization can tap into this information to learn more about itself and how it performs. Not only that, it can tap into the vast amounts of information on the web that can tell how the competitors, customers, partners, and so on operate and perform.
Below is from a previous post of mine ("Using blogs and RSS-feeds for better decision making"):
On a high level, business intelligence can be defined as initiatives that use various forms of IT-resources to support better business decision making. But the most commonly definition narrows it down to using facts (= data) to support decisions, a fact being "something that is the case, something that actually exists, or something that can be verified according to an established standard of evaluation". (Wikipedia)In my mind, Enterprise 2.0 is not about creating gigantic data warehouses with numbers and figures from which management can get aggregated reports about how the enterprise performs from a hard fact-based perspective. No, Enterprise 2.0 has much more to do with enabling information to flow between people and making it easy to passively tap into these information flows to support intuitive decision making.