On the occasion of the seminar of presentation of the Tunisian Network of Business Intelligence (ATIE), at the initiative of the Ministry of Trade and Handicrafts, Fethi Ben Mimoun, Chairman of ATIE gave the following interview to Africanmanager:
What is business intelligence?
Business intelligence aims to control strategic economic information. It means a coordinated set of actions for the collection, analysis, valuation, protection and dissemination of useful information to economic players, businesses, government, local authorities, clusters and research institutions to strengthen their competitiveness. It helps answer the dilemma of the abundance of information faced by any decision maker. It allows optimal management of strategic information.
The process of business intelligence is based on three pillars, namely strategic watch regarding economic developments of major interest and the economic security of businesses and protection of their physical, human and intangible assets (intellectual property, destabilization, reputation and image, integration in information science) The third pillar is the development of the influence or soft power through external communication actions and lobbying to impact the market.
I should point out, at this level, that business intelligence is not a managerial gadget similar to those produced by the managerial industry from time to time. It consists of a set of knowledge, tools, practices and attitudes that every professional is supposed to have and acquire. It is inherently cross. It is a mindset that must permeate all specialties and fields (economists, managers, engineers, computer scientists, pharmacists, lawyers). It is not the monopoly of any of them. It is also interdisciplinary. It mobilizes a broad range of knowledge ranging from information science and data mining tools such as humanities and cultural intelligence.
Has Tunisia grasped the importance of issues related to business intelligence and how is the situation in this area?
Business intelligence in Tunisia lags evidently compared to other countries. It is far from being a real conceptualized, formalized and institutionalized public policy that brings together public and private actors as part of a shared vision based on a strategy of growth and global competitiveness. Its practice is still embryonic, fragmented and widely dispersed.
It is mainly practiced by some large companies and some public or private institutions such as CEPEX, FIPA or IACE. This is, indeed, a watch on their areas of expertise rather than an intelligence process that is much more offensive. Some universities are beginning to show interest and offer a postgraduate training in this area, but I think we are still far from our need in professionals trained in this discipline. We are also far from the excitement generated by business intelligence in the world. Each year, several masters in business intelligence are established in Europe, for example.
I would note that we are experiencing an excessive politicization of the national debate, to the detriment of a real debate on major economic issues that will engage the future of our country. This is understandable given the historical and fundamental democratic transition we are experiencing. What worries me also is the clear decline of knowledge and rationality in our society, which necessarily affects our collective intelligence, a concept which is at the heart of the issue of business economic. We are witnessing a real regression at the level of topics discussed and the behavior of individuals. I am, for example, amazed to see the number of young people and adults victims of belief in astrology, who believe that it is a science and confuse it with astrophysics. Facebook is a witness to these mistakes!
What are the obstacles to the establishment of a true business intelligence policy? What should be done to remove them?
The obstacles are many. The collaborative approach is inadequate at all levels. We have a public and a private sector that, if they do not ignore it superbly, are working very little, and rather out of necessity. They are in a complex relationship soaked in a mixture of distrust and cronyism. Similarly, Tunisian firms do not have a tradition of collaboration or sharing of experience or expertise in foreign markets. Our administrations are also highly compartmentalized and continue to work apart and this, at all segments of the same department. A real Chinese wall stands sometimes between branches within the same department. A narrow and sketchy conception of professional secrecy coupled to a chronic lack of internal communication ultimately makes services watertight and impervious to each other.
We have managed to make a Revolution which, in its effects and its shock wave, is similar to the Bolshevik Revolution. It is a cultural revolution that we need now. A paradigm shift. We need to (re) learn to work together, to seek convergence, to pool our assets and our experiences. The competition law is not incompatible with the collaboration and partnership between companies. Other countries do it and do it well. Why not us? Fields of experience and skills are diffuse and nest in different levels and spheres of our administration, our universities, our businesses and our embassies. It is essential to formalize an administrative and organizational process that would help capture and capitalize on these fields and make them available to decision makers and economic policies. The point is to promote a global awareness, among all actors, of the possibility to move the Tunisia ship that is sailing in stormy seas in the direction of growth, prosperity and progress while pursuing their respective goals.
Can you tell us about your association and its objectives?
The creation of our association is part of the idea that intelligence is a matter for all stakeholders, including civil society, and it is not the prerogative of any administrative service. The new association has set itself as mission, the promotion and dissemination of intelligence by various national public and private economic actors.
Through its network of experts, academics, policy makers, senior officials, diplomats, the ATIE plans to offer a privileged space for meetings and discussions between actors from different backgrounds and provide a fresh perspective between leaders and experts, in a spirit of pooling and sharing of knowledge and experiences, particularly between public and private spheres.
It aims to establish itself as a platform of expertise in this area, and contribute to and enrich thinking and the national economic debate.
The interests of the association are very wide and cover the entire scope and themes of business intelligence, such as monitoring and knowledge management, protection of information assets, soft power, the e-reputation, engineering and information management, supporting businesses abroad, support for regional economic development and innovation, engineering of decision support system, risk management, country risk, geopolitics, lobbying, firms’ safety and security, IT Security, coaching in IE, negotiation skills, cultural intelligence.
Our road map for 2012 consists of a number of actions and events that we will release in due course.