September 29, 2021

What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

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The big data phenomenon has taken over corporate offices around the world. More companies than ever before are leveraging their valuable business data to make faster, more accurate, and more impactful decisions. And yet, taking the first step to become a data-driven company is often daunting. Where do you even begin?

While some tools have built-in data analytics, they often only consider data from a single source. Campaign-level data can be immensely helpful for decision-making, but it’s inherently limited. Even if your software has robust analytics capabilities, it can be hard to draw meaningful conclusions without examining that data alongside reports from other tools.

Data analysts are tasked with a formidable challenge: developing impactful reports by combining data from various sources into Excel. However, relying on data analysts to collate data and draw meaningful insights is expensive, time-consuming, and too slow to keep up with business demands. Since this is how companies have done data analysis for years, many aren’t aware there’s a better way.

Data-driven organizations use business intelligence, or BI, to organize, collate, and better understand the data they collect. Here’s everything you need to know about business intelligence.

What is business intelligence?

At its core, business intelligence is the process of using technology to analyze data and glean valuable insight with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Most businesses have tons of data sitting idle on servers, not knowing they’re sitting on a goldmine of information about their customers. Business analytics helps leaders crunch big data and generate actionable insights they can use to create new products or services, take advantage of business opportunities, and make decisions that drive revenue. By leveraging modern BI technology, your business can more quickly and easily analyze structured and unstructured data from multiple sources.

Before BI, the average business user didn’t have access to robust data science insights unless they were packaged into a report from IT. IT and data analytics teams were responsible for manual data discovery and reporting, and analysis often required lots of specialized expertise. For example, rather than pulling real-time data from a data warehouse, a business intelligence analyst might have to query an OLAP cube to generate reports. Requesting and receiving reports with data visualization could take days or weeks, making business leaders slow to respond to opportunities.

Sounds tricky and technical? That’s because it is. Without business intelligence software, data mining is often limited to your team’s Excel and SQL skills. Even with a talented team of data scientists, this highly manual process is antithetical to operational efficiency.

Now, a modern business intelligence solution can empower any business user to make a rapid business decision with interactive dashboards and real-time reporting. Self-service BI tools like Microsoft Power BI and Tableau allow any user to interpret data like a data scientist, all from the comfort of their desk.

Also Read: Culture Considerations for Choosing BI Tools: Is Traditional vs. Self-Service BI Right For You?

What is a business intelligence tool, and do I need one?

The first step to gaining a better understanding of your data is finding the right business intelligence tool (or BI tool) to integrate into your tech stack. A BI platform is essential to reap the full benefits of business intelligence.

There are two primary types of software you can get from BI vendors: traditional BI tools and self-service BI tools. Traditional BI tools speed up data modeling and reporting for your IT team, giving business leaders more access to actionable insights without dramatically shifting the process for requesting reports. Meanwhile, self-service BI tools make data visualization directly available to different teams across the enterprise, but it may require more robust training for business users to become comfortable using their new data capabilities.

A business intelligence platform lets users query an ever-evolving data warehouse, which houses all of your company’s historical data from various sources. Every time your employees perform a query, the BI solution becomes more valuable to your company as artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities expand.

Modern BI tools are designed to make big data accessible to anyone in your organization with the proper permissions. Interactive dashboards, easy-to-understand data visualization, and white-labeled embedded analytics make it simple for every employee to make better decisions that impact the company’s bottom line.

How can BI software help my business succeed?

Making data-driven decisions isn’t new for many businesses, but without the right tools, business leaders might spend hours reviewing reports to make an important decision. Descriptive analytics could offer insight into what worked and didn’t work in the past, but most teams were forced to guess what might work in the future based on the data they had available.

Now, with a business intelligence system like SAP Lumira or Dundas BI, enterprises have more meaningful access to their data than ever before. Powerful data integration capabilities allow companies a deeper view into what’s going on across their organization. When that information is combined with ML and AI, your company can access predictive analytics and actionable insights that move the needle on your business goals.

Plus, these tools aren’t just valuable for examining what’s going on in your own company. BI software simplifies competitive intelligence, too. Combining your historical data with competitive analysis makes it even easier to make better decisions that strengthen your brand.

Ironically, even though business analytics have always been used to cut costs and improve business decisions, the old way of doing things fails when it comes to operational efficiency. A BI application doesn’t just make analyzing your data easier and more accessible; it also makes data mining and reporting more affordable and efficient.

Make data analysis available to everyone with business intelligence software

One of the biggest benefits of modern BI tools is self-service capabilities. By empowering more employees to make data-driven decisions, you can create a culture that aligns with your business values and supports your business goals.

To make the best decisions, your business needs ready access to relevant data at a moment’s notice. With BI software, users can leverage prescriptive analytics, descriptive analytics, and predictive analytics effortlessly. Clear data visualization and interactive dashboards allow team members at every level to make better decisions using data your company already has. In fact, with tools like Sisense or Exago, you can even embed analytics into your employees’ daily workflow to inspire data-driven decisions at every level.

Up until now, businesses may have only leveraged data to make the biggest and most important decisions. After all, it doesn’t make sense to run tons of reports to make every small decision. However, since BI tools make reporting and data visualization faster and easier, now your business can readily jump on opportunities and find new ways to surpass the competition. Ultimately, BI software can play a major role in helping your organization gain market share, bring products to market more quickly, and increase revenue.

Choosing the right BI platform

With so many BI vendors to choose from, finding the best tool for your business needs is challenging. We’re here to help.

At Technology Advice, we take the guesswork out of finding the right software solutions for your business. Our expert team is ready to help you find a business intelligence solution that’s right for your needs, goals, and budget. Give us a call and start leveraging your data in no time.