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Introduction to Business Intelligence

Anyone working in a modern business setting will increasingly hear about Business Intelligence, which is often shortened to BI. But what is it, and what do you need to know as a manager? This introduction to business intelligence will explain what it is, and its features and benefits.

What Is Business Intelligence Software?

Firstly, Business Intelligence can dramatically transform your business. It's essential a powerful software that helps businesses to extract intelligence from corporate data reserves in order to support decision making. These systems were first introduced in a basic form in the sixties, and today there are more than 100 specialist software firms that sell their own versions of these tools.

According to Gartner’s IT Glossary, Business Intelligence “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."

BI solutions help organisations, regardless of size or industry, to organise and rapidly analyse data in a custom fashion in order to make better quality decisions.  

The BI market is growing rapidly as data itself grows. Most companies are struggling to keep on top of the disparate data sources that they own or can access and have already invested in ERP or CRM systems to help manage it. The growth of data means that demand for user-friendly analytics tools is growing too.

The market itself is changing, however. A few years ago it was being driven by IT users who wanted to see complex and highly functional tools with advanced integration into existing internal systems and data warehouses. Increasingly however, the customer is now the business user themselves, who wants to be able to run custom reports on department data, such as marketing, retail, sales, procurement and digital channel data.


Features of Business Intelligence

There are generally three categories of Business Intelligence software: tools to manage their big data sets; tools to discover it; and tools to report against data. These include visualisation and dashboard software for intuitive, real time reporting. Scorecards are also increasingly used, all reflecting the changing customer type - from IT specialist to business user.

Individual organisational needs depend on the systems that are already in place for data management. For example, firms further along their data journey may have a range of inter-connected data warehouses, linked with ERP and CRM systems. Those with some way to go may still have their data sets scattered across a range of traditional databases which don't yet connect with each other. Data planning specialists and software vendors can assess existing capabilities and advise as to best fit solutions for organisational needs.

Once data is organised into a common format and structure, the organisation can implement discovery software based upon a variety of programs, which will include numerical and text mining features. These allow ad-hoc reports to be pulled off in real time, without affecting the systems that gather the underlying data.

Organisations may also buy in supporting services such as data quality management, to ensure that the data being captured is clean, error free and standardised, the latter point being vital for an effective BI system.



What is Business Intelligence Reporting?

In a nutshell, we can say that BI reporting is the process of receiving or providing data to end-users and applications through a Business Intelligence solution. The reporting function is a key feature of most BI solutions, as it delivers a structured report for the analysis of your data sets.


What is Embedded BI?

In a nutshell, embedded BI is a term used to describe the integration of self-service business intelligence tools into more commonly used business applications. Embedded BI will provide you with capabilities such as data analytics reporting, interactive dashboards, data analysis and predictive analysis. But what’s the difference between embedded BI vs traditional BI applications?

If you have a business intelligence solution as a standalone application, the users are forced to switch between their business applications to a separate analytics tool in order to run data analysis. Naturally, this both complicated and time-consuming – and the siloed data can make it hard to get a complete overview.

An embedded BI solution avoids this by putting the necessary dashboards and analytics in the applications you’re already using. This means that workflows are not interrupted.

Benefits of embedded BI includes

·         High user adoption rate

·         Streamlined workflow

·         Increases time spent in the application

·         Better overview

·         Faster data analysis


Why is business intelligence vital for businesses?

The customer-centric, digital world we live in today, means that many business owners are being flooded with what can only be described as information overload. To combat this, a Business Intelligence tool can be a good way to take back control and to (re)discover vital information and intelligence from your company data. Used correctly, your Business Intelligence solution will enable you to

  • Make better business decisions
  • Spot trends and react quicker to sales opportunities
  • Understand how your customer acts - and the best way to reach them
  • Improve customer engagement and support
  • Increase productivity and limit bottlenecks
  • Increase data accuracy and consistency


Evaluating BI Buyer Type

Before a customer contacts a software provider, they should know whether they are approaching the BI question as an IT expert or a business user, and pick potential solution providers accordingly.

IT specialists will generally want complex, functionality-driven and highly integrated systems that can be merged into the existing data infrastructure. Business buyers may also contact software providers directly, and will prioritise user friendly, mobile and real time reporting applications. These are often delivered very effectively by smaller providers with a strong understanding of what managers really need.

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