What is business intelligence?
Business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information which helps executives, managers and other corporate end users make informed business decisions. BI encompasses many different tools, applications and methodologies that allow organisations to collect data, prepare it for analysis, and then create reports, dashboards and data visualisations to inform key stakeholders. Data can be sourced from existing data warehouses as well as new data which is gathered as it is being generated.
The top 7 reasons to invest in business intelligence
A 2018 report published by Gartner claimed that despite business intelligence being a top investment priority in 2017, businesses were slow to adopt transformative analytical tools. This finding is somewhat suprising, as effective business intelligence software can transform organisations, providing a number of distinct advantages. The top 7 benefits of business intelligence solutions are outlined below.
- Providing unprecedented access to information – by giving employees and decision makers access to information, BI platforms can aid strategic and tactical decision making.
- Faster, more informed decision making – having the organisations data on-hand and readily available allows people to make better informed decisions, when it matter most, without having to wait for data or reports.
- Enhancing customer experiences – constantly monitoring customer experiences across various touchpoints allows the organisation to become more customer-centric.
- Increasing sales and revenue – continously evaluating and benchmarking performance against itself and competitors means that organisations can quickly identify potential opportunities to increase sale and revenue.
- Improving operational efficiency – easy access to internal company data ensures that operational improvements can be made quickly and as issues arise.
- Identifying new oppoertunities hidden in data – with all of the data available to an organisation, a BI tool means that data discovery is possible, allowing hidden gems to be revealed that would have otherwise been missed.
- Improving data accuracy and compliance – moving to a robust database solution, coupled with standardised reporting means that data inaccuracies are reduced, and data compliance can be managed more effectively.
OK so BI is important, but where do I start?
Although early business analytics was cumbersome and performed by experts who provided query based reports to organisational stakeholders, modern business intelligence is far more accessible. There are two options available for those looking to invest in business intelligence.
- Self-service business intelligence software – allows business users to work with corporate data even if they do not have a background in data analytics. Off the shelf software packages allow users to import their data, create drag and drop reports, and filter, sort and visualise data on the fly without involving data analysts. Though self service BI is cost effective in the short term and provides simple and user friendly features, it is often hindered by the level of analytical skill required to format data, create moderately or highly complex reporting outputs, and ongoing user licensing fees. Some examples of self-service BI software includes Tableau, PowerBI and Displayr.
- Custom built business intelligence software – this approach involves partnering with a data and software development agency to build a custom BI platform that is tailored specifically to the organisations reporting requirements. The team starts from scratch, designing the database architecture, dashboard interface, data visualisations, metrics, and filters to the specific needs of the organisation. While these solutions cost more to set up, they become cheaper in the long term and are often more widely used due to being developed for the organisations unique data reporting needs. An example of a custom business intelligence software agency is Dassier.
If you are looking into business intelligence software, start by defining the data sources, reporting requirements, and target audience, which should help you to determine which approach works best for your organisation.