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Basic BI Terminology

business intelligence

The following definitions are as used by BI System Builders. They are provided to help those new to Business Intelligence to quickly gain a grip of common BI terminology. They are not dictionary definitions and the reader is encouraged to find out more from whitepapers and text books etc.


An acronym for Agile Data Warehouse Design. It is a methodology enabling star schemas to be delivered in an agile manner. The concept has been innovated and developed by Lawrence Corr and Jim Stagnitto.

Ad Hoc Analysis

The capability for any user including a non-technical business user to be able to ask a business question by manipulating a report or creating a query against the database at will without the need for IT assistance.


This is a delivery and developer methodology. It is designed to be light (documentation) and fast, hence Agile. There is a common belief that by reducing the delivery time the delivery costs are also reduced. Several sources of information exist for this on the internet.


A person that analyses data in-depth in a report. This is often to identify over performing and underperforming business areas. They frequently use drill down, drill up and drill across techniques.


An acronym for Boyce/Codd Normal Form. This is third normal form according to Boyce and Codd.


This is an acronym for Business Event Analysis and Modelling. It is the method/ framework used in Agile Data Warehouse Design to gather requirements within a business process area and model accordingly.


A quality standard that has been set within an industry o standard for r an organisation. Usually also attempting to promote best practice techniques.


An acronym for Business Intelligence Competency Centre.

Business Intelligence

This is the activity of taking data from source systems and turning it into valuable information for business users. One of the earliest and best books on the subject is e-Business Intelligence written by Bernard Liautaud the founder of the BI vendor Business Objects.

Business Intelligence Competency Centre

The Business Intelligence Competency Centre is also known as a BICC. A BICC may come in several flavours from a simple reporting service centre to a strategic unit designed to implement various Business Intelligence functions from reporting to data warehousing and process to governance.


An acronym for Corporate Information Factory.

Corporate Information Factory

Design theory and principles for an Enterprise Data Warehouse as explained by Bill Inmon.

Data Warehousing

In a nutshell this is creating a central database, extracting data from source systems, and then cleaning and loading the data in to the database. The database is designed in such a way that business users can then access the data to answer their business questions

Dimensional Modelling

This is the discipline of modelling database tables using fact and dimension tables. Degrees of denormalization. The most prolific writer and thought leader on the subject is Ralph Kimball


An acronym for Enterprise Data Warehouse

End to End BI

A Business Intelligence philosophy or methodology that considers all parts of the Business Intelligence System from requirement gathering through to source system data analysis.

End User

A user that consumes reports often a Business User but also known as an Information Consumer. End Users tend to be analysts and/ or decision makers but there are other types of End Users such as Key Users, Power Users and Super Users.

End User Requirements

These are the requirements of the Business Users. Often End User Requirements present themselves as series of business questions that must be answered through Business Intelligence, report specifications, and required functionality.

Enterprise Data Warehouse

This is a single database or set of databases that allow all of an organisation’s data to be stored in a central repository ideally in relationship to each other. The utopia is to realise a single version of the truth. There are opposing philosophies regarding the structure and nature of the enterprise data warehouse.


An acronym for the Extract, Transform and Load process. This refers to extracting data from the source system, transforming (cleaning and manipulating etc.) the data and then loading the data into the data warehouse.

Extended Start Join Schema

An Extended Start Join Schema is very similar to a Star Join Schema. The difference is that as well as a dimension table joining to a fact table, a dimension table also joins to related dimension tables. This practice is commonly known as snow flaking. It is the technique used in SAP’s Business Information Warehouse.

Information Consumer

As the name suggests an Information Consumer consumes the information from Business Intelligence reports, usually for decision making purposes. The name is often used interchangeably with Business User and End User.

KPI An acronym for Key Performance Indicator. These are key indicators to the health of the business. They should not be confused with measures and metrics which will proliferate through the organisation.


An acronym for Multi Dimensional eXpressions.

MS SQLServer

The data warehouse platform from Microsoft.

Multi Dimensional eXpressions

Also known as MDX, the Multi Dimensional eXpressions language allows users to control and query OLAP cubes.


An acronym for Operational Data Store.


An acronym for Online Analytical Processing.

On the Fly Query

The ability to create a new query against the database without the need for intervention from IT.


An acronym for Red Amber Green. These are usually icons placed on a dashboard or balanced scorecard. The colour of them will change according to criteria set by the business. Typically Green is on or above target, Amber is approaching target, and Red is below target (according to a set tolerance).


An acronym for the Rational Unification Process.

SAP Netweaver Business Information Warehouse

The Enterprise Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence solution from SAP. The Business Intelligence solution has been greatly augmented through the acquisition of and integration with BusinessObjects.

Self-Service BI

The activity of end users being self-sufficient in supplying themselves with Business Intelligence reports and/ or queries without having to rely on IT.

Semantic Layer
This is another name for the SAP BusinessObjects universe. It is so called because of its function to generate Structured Query Language or Multi Dimensional eXpressions.

Single Version of the Truth

One single central data warehouse containing quality assured data that is delivered accurately through Business Intelligence reports. The opposite of this is numerous databases resulting in Business Users getting conflicting answers and results to the same question.


An acronym for Structured Query Language.

Star Join Schema

This is another name for a dimensional model. A dimensional model is often likened to a star because it will tend to have a central fact table surrounded by several dimension tables. When presented in a logical model or universe it resembles a star shape.

Structured Query Language

Structured Query Language also known as SQL is a language developed specifically to communicate with databases. SQL standardisation is governed by the ANSI standards committee.

Trusted BI

The concept refers to the fact that the data in Business Intelligence reports can be trusted. To this end it is often discussed along with the concept of the Single Version of the Truth and data lineage. Programs such as Metadata Manager enable users to gain visibility in to data lineage to understand what actions have been performed upon the data from source system to reporting.

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