Tapping open data sources

Fateh Naili's picture
 By | May 01, 2014
in Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Data Access, Data Enrichment, Data Governance, Data Quality, data source, data visualization, Information Delivery, intelligence, BI Scalability, BI Standardization, Operational BI
May 01, 2014

Tapping open data sources. Photo by Discos Konfort

Every day we see how business Intelligence and data visualization is helping people across industries with a purpose of gaining new levels of insight and understanding of what's going on in their organization.


As well as being able to more easily analyse and drill down into the data within a particular system, modern BI tools really come into their own when combining various data sets. For instance, analysing sales information can highlight some useful trends, but combining that information with customer service data can deliver even greater insights – perhaps how sales of particular items correlate to customer service queries.


That's a fairly trivial example, but you get the idea of how being able to access and tie together a variety of data sets can answer ever more complex questions and provide even more useful answers. But even then, many BI users miss a trick by only looking inwards when seeking out useful data.


As the data revolution that has swept the globe, so new data sources have started to become readily available - from businesses, media organisations and governments, as well as research groups and analysts. As a result, just as expanding the reach of BI across departments can open up a host of new analysis possibilities, so can tapping the information that is readily available outside the organisation. Best of all, many of these data sources are freely available.


Some examples of open data sets include:



For any businesses that has more than one location, sells online and/or provides services, there is an element of geography involved. Mapping data can help bundle postcodes into particular regions and/or enable data to be visually broken down on a map, creating an easy way to see results by region.


Social media

Social media is a great way for businesses to engage with existing and potential customers, address queries, highlight products and events and discuss relevant topical news. It's also a veritable treasure trove of data that can be used to identify potential new combined with internal figures to reinforce or dispel existing plans or hypotheses.


Socio-economic information

Many governments are starting to make data more readily available, including a wide range of socio-economic information – everything from house prices and income, to health levels and education, not to mention more niche elements like traffic, environmental status or weather patterns.


The most obvious use for data like this is to improve sales and advertising by comparing target groups with demographic breakdowns, but depending on the nature of the business, there are a myriad of other possibilities for using this type of information as part of the data analysis.


These are just a few examples of the types of available data sources that exist outside of organisations. The one thing to look out for is to ensure that the data is trustworthy, but by turning to reputable sources it's possible to be reasonable confidant.


A fully featured business intelligence solution can tap into all these and more to provide an even greater pool of resources to analyse. By looking beyond just the information within the business, new correlations, trends, conclusions and predictions can be uncovered and visualized, opening up a new wave of insight and understanding.