Welcome to my Myth Busting series. Today we are going to debunk the myth that you can't recommend or deliver business intelligence without pain or high cost.

Definition of what business intelligence is:
Data that is turned into information that will be analyzed and acted upon by a business person in order to make the business more successful.

Here are the top Mythical roadblocks to beginning an intelligence project and how to overcome them:

Myth: We can't do BI because our data is dirty or in otherwise bad shape.
Answer: Bring Me Your Raw Data!

Do an impartial analysis. The best data is the raw data. The most clarity as to what you can report is here because no one has gotten their hands on it. Get a sample and look at it or have a data analyst look at it - NOT a developer, NOT a report developer, NOT a data warehouse person - a data analyst is what you need. If you can't do it yourself and can't find a data analyst then go get a line of business analyst. Get a true assessment. If you are collecting data you've got something of value and figuring these things out is what an analyst does.

Myth: We have to extract it, transform it and put it into a warehouse first
Answer: Data first, intelligence second warehouse third

Either way you need to extract it so if that's off the table give up now. Do some extracts then ask the business person what they are most interested in, create an extract or two and you are on your way. Whatever you do don't monkey around with the data. Do not interpret it, do not massage it and do not transform it. Why? Because you don't know what you're doing - let the business person figure that out. Translate it if you must but directly translate it and take a little time to explain what it is to the business person or analyst.

Myth: We have to have special software
Answer: No you don't

No special software needed. A person with an analytical skill set will find a way to figure things out. When it doubt Google or Bing it - there's a download out there for everyone.

Myth: I have to have a project for this
Answer: If I waited for a project for everything that I wanted to do I would never get anywhere

I am waiting for the day where IT sends the developers and analysts back to the business as FTE. If you've never worked in that environment you've missed some good times. Until then, I choose to not let bureaucracy get in the way of helping others out. If it takes me five or ten minutes on my lunch hour and I can give something of value to someone then I do it. If someone is asking you to help there's a good chance that this person is someone who will push for a budget for a "real" project if they can collect enough evidence that it will pay off. Give a little now and you will have many projects to officially charge your time to later.

Myth: I have to give the business "special" information
Answer: The most frequently overlooked data is operating data. Intelligence must include a few different elements but if all you have is operating data start there.