What is Business Intelligence (BI) and Why Do I Need It?

With the amount of data stored by companies growing exponentially, business intelligence (BI) grows ever more important as organizations need to translate that data to meaningful insights that will support future growth and strategies.

What is business intelligence?

Business intelligence uncovers insights for making strategic decisions. Business intelligence tools analyze historical and current data and present findings in intuitive visual formats. It combines business analytics, data mining, visualization, tools and infrastructure, and best practices.

How business intelligence works

There are four keys steps that business intelligence follows to transform raw data into easy-to-digest insights for everyone in the organization to use. The first three—data collection, analysis, and visualization—set the stage for the final decision-making step. Before using BI, businesses had to do much of their analysis manually, but BI tools automate many of the processes and save companies time and effort.

Step 1: Collect and transform data from multiple sources
Business intelligence tools typically use the extract, transform, and load (ETL) method to aggregate structured and unstructured data from multiple sources. This data is then transformed and remodeled before being stored in a central location, so applications can easily analyze and query it as one comprehensive data set.

Step 2: Uncover trends and inconsistencies
Data mining, or data discovery, typically uses automation to quickly analyze data to find patterns and outliers which provide insight into the current state of business. BI tools often feature several types of data modeling and analytics—including exploratory, descriptive, statistical, and predictive—that further explore data, predict trends, and make recommendations.

Step 3: Use data visualization to present findings
Business intelligence reporting uses data visualizations to make findings easier to understand and share. Reporting methods include interactive data dashboards, charts, graphs, and maps that help users see what’s happening in the business.

Step 4: Take action on insights in real-time
Viewing current and historical data in context with business activities allows companies to move quickly from insights to action. Business intelligence enables real-time adjustments and long-term strategic changes that eliminate inefficiencies, adapt to market shifts, correct supply problems, and solve customer issues.

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Why Do I Need a Business Intelligence Solution?

As BI technology has advanced, deployment, licensing, and support options have made it more accessible for organizations of all sizes. Virtually every business can benefit from BI. Specific issues or scenarios that are good indicators a BI discussion should take place include:

  • The need to integrate data from multiple business applications or data sources
  • Lack of visibility into the company’s operations, finances, and other areas
  • The need to access relevant business data quickly and efficiently
  • Increasing volume of users requiring and accessing information and more end-users requiring analytical capabilities
  • Rapid company growth or a recent or pending merger/acquisition
  • Introduction of new products
  • Upgrades within the IT environment

There are several benefits a BI solution offers to an organization regardless of size:

Share information efficiently and effectively across your organization

BI makes it easy for everyone – from decision-makers to functional teams – to access and analyze up-to-date information anytime, anywhere.  Everyone throughout the company can make better decisions faster.

Empower your people

Providing employees with access to analytical data that is readily available and understandable allows them to work more effectively and support the overall business strategy.

Simplify collaboration and improve alignment with a single source for accurate financial and operational information

Having a single, central location allows you to monitor your key performance indicators (KPIs), access reports, analyze your data, and share documents. Functional areas can align to articulate strategies, set objectives, and monitor the organization’s performance so you can make better informed and timely strategic decisions.

Deliver meaningful analysis and reporting

Readily track and analyze KPIs against key business goals to gain a better understanding of how your business is performing today and not when it’s too late to impact performance.

Have a solution with the scalability and flexibility to grow and change as your organization does

Most companies still store their valuable data in services or massive Excel spreadsheets. While Excel has many useful features, it doesn’t scale to your business; compiling data from multiple, disparate databases is time-consuming and prone to errors.

With Microsoft’s Power BI – a cloud-based, self-service business intelligence solution – you have a tool that can scale and grow with your business. It allows you to consolidate and analyze data from different sources, combining them into reports and dashboards to illuminate what’s happening in your business.

If you’re familiar with Excel, then the BI learning curve is a snap. Contact us to learn more about Power BI and how it can unlock silos in your business and bring your data together to deliver meaningful insights and drive impactful business decisions.