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What is Business Intelligence?

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Written by Nicolo Palos

Marketing hipster.


Business Intelligence or BI is defined in many different ways but the easiest way for us to define it is the cohesion between software and data; as well as, the aggregation of that data into actionable insights that allow businesses to make strategic decisions. (CIO) In other words, BI tells you much more about what is happening than what can be gleaned from the raw data on its own. In years past, BI tools were used by higher level professionals within an organization; however, we are now seeing a need for quicker and better decision making across multiple levels of an organization, which BI tools help facilitate. With this rising need, one needs to stay informed on the options out there and what they offer.  (CEOWorld)

Common Business Intelligence Definitions:

  1. “The term Business Intelligence (BI) refers to technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information.” – OLAP.com
  2. “Business intelligence (BI) is an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.” – Gartner, Inc.
  3. “Business Intelligence is a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational insights and decision-making.” – Forrester Research.
  4. “The ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal.” –  Hans Peter Luhn, IBM, 1958.
  5. "Business intelligence is also called descriptive analytics, in that it describes a past or current state." CIO
  6. “It doesn’t tell you what to do; it tells you what was and what is,” - Michael F. Gorman, professor of operations management and decision science, University of Dayton, OH

 

These definitions give us an idea of what BI is, but more important is what it does for the organization. We’ve found that the value can really be distilled down to 3 main benefits: Power of Data, Power of Justification, and Power of Personalization. Firstly, the Power of Data allows organizations to access data across multiple departments quicker than ever. Before these tools, federal agencies, marketing departments, you name it had to go looking all over the place for data that was housed by a certain employee or subgroup. If your organization took a while to find the data and was slow on making a decision because of it then this will absolutely help. Secondly, Power of Justification, the tools are programed to aggregate data and provide dashboard views in which you can see where resources and money are funneled and connected. This allows departments to justify their spending, budget, ROI, etc. and demonstrate the value being generated by their department. Thirdly, Power of Personalization, BI tools simply work well in many different organizations because of the different features they have such as: analytical functions, processing and data visualization, and performance scorecards. Every organization is different and has different needs from a tool like this therefore the tools are made to be customizable. (Forbes)

While BI tools have many advantages, they do have a couple of disadvantages. For example, not every tool works seamlessly with every integration that is connected to it. As Finances online states, some software you still need to manually input and check data to make sure that it is pulling in the right information. Another disadvantage is not every tool has a perfectly smooth user interface. As markets and industries change, so does the software that is needed to provide answers; therefore, the tools will have some minor bumps.

What kind of BI Tools are out there?

The following are 6 Business Intelligence tools that many organizations are using, and you can find many more listed on Gartner's review website.

  1. Tableau
  2. Microsoft
  3. Qlik
  4. Coras
  5. TIBCO Software
  6. Sisense
  7. Etc.

 

Now that organizations small and large are in need of tools that help them aggregate their data and make better decisions, BI tools have become the obvious solution. As clients and customers demand solutions faster, BI tools will have no choice but to grow. As discussed previously in the CEO World Article, the demand over the next couple of years is forecasted to increase. With that being said, organizations need to start thinking about implementing qualitative and quantitative forecasting tools organization-wide with some of the tools such as: Tableau, Microsoft, or Coras, if they haven’t already done so. To stay competitive, an organization needs tools like these to remind them of what has happened and what is happening today.

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