The Indusa Blog

What Is Business Intelligence and How Does it Work?

Posted by Indusa Admin on October 3, 2017 1:12 pm

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~BI is turning data into ultimate value~

For the past few years, data has become the life force of organizations. And those who are able to harness the power of this data using business intelligence (BI) find themselves having a competitive edge over others, with the ability to empower business users, and innovate faster. So what is the buzz around BI? And, more importantly, how are organizations leveraging BI to improve outcomes? We spoke to our BI SME, who provided much needed insight into BI – its uses, benefits, and more. Read on to find out everything you wanted to know about BI:

What is Business Intelligence?

BI has been around for a long time, and over the years has taken on many different forms – from reporting and performance management, to predictive analytics, and machine learning. So what exactly is BI? Gartner defines BI as “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.”

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In simpler terms, business intelligence enables you to analyze humongous amounts of information, present it in the form of dynamic and interactive reports and charts, giving you the required insight to make better, smarter, and more innovative decisions. You can leverage BI to analyze every aspect of your company: you can examine the effectiveness of your sales efforts, manage and control inventory, improve the efficiency of your shop floor operations, analyze your web traffic, enhance the performance of your team members, and more.

How Does Business Intelligence Work?

BI extracts data from various sources (usually applications, databases, and spreadsheets), processes them into a meaningful format, and presents them in an easy-to-understand way for improved and informed decision making. BI uses a variety of tools (OLAP dashboards, data mining and visualization tools), applications (including spreadsheets, scorecards, and reporting and querying software), and methodologies (including predictive analytics, machine learning, big data analytics, and statistical analysis) to collect data and make it available to decision-makers, as well as operational users in the form of actionable information.

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Essential Benefit of Business Intelligence

Initially, BI tools were primarily used only by data analysts and scientists, who ran analyses and produced reports with query results for business users. However, since the evolution of the cloud, self-service BI and easy-to-use data discovery tools and dashboards, business executives, retail companies and workers are increasingly using BI platforms themselves.

The potential benefits of business intelligence tools are numerous:

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Key Challenges of Business Intelligence

Although BI is helping numerous companies make smarter, data-driven decisions, there are others who are skeptical about embracing it. Some of the common challenges that organizations must understand and address are:

  • Data Management
  • OLAP Processing
  • Dashboard / Data interpretation and visualization

If you’re looking to make the most of a BI solution, you need to first check what you’re hoping to achieve. Are you looking to boost sales? Or improve the efficiency of your business processes? Or is improved employee performance a priority? Once you’re clear about the objective, you can then consider how BI systems can help you achieve your objective.

Best Practices When Incorporating a Business Intelligence Strategy

Investing in a BI system is a critical and important business move. BI systems hold great potential for helping organizations readily access enterprise information needed to make informed business decisions and, ultimately, achieve their business objectives. If you’re looking to get you need to follow certain best practices:

  • Create a BI roadmap: It is important to ascertain how information delivered in the right context, and in the right form can accelerate a process, reduce costs, or improve productivity in a particular area. Tip: Make sure you have a very specific objective outlined before investing in a BI project.
  • Define the scope: A BI implementation should always be done in stages, with the scope of each phase clearly defined. Tip: You should always be aware of how many users and functions will be needed over time.
  • Have policies in place: It is important to have BI policies in place to ensure high level of relevance and accessibility. Tip: Pay extra attention to how the data is collected, processed, and stored.
  • Include business users: No implementation is successful without the inclusion of users. Take in business users from the start of the solution implementation and ensure widespread adoption. Tip: Invest time and effort to educate and train users.
  • Institute metrics that matter: Defining critical metrics for your company is an important step to get the most from your BI solution. Focus only on metrics and KPIs that truly matter. Tip: Start with goals that determine your success, and work your way back into the business.

Frequently Asked Questions About Business Intelligence

As several organizations are slowly opening up to the idea of having a BI system in place, there are several questions that they should have answered before they make the plunge:

  • How does BI integrate data from different distinct sources?
  • What effect does BI have on user rights and security?
  • How does BI perform data refresh?
  • How do I deploy BI apps?
  • How does BI distribute and collaborate data?
  • What is the typical license cost of a BI solution?
  • What are the typical CAL requirements of a BI system?
  • What timeline and budget is usually associated with a BI solution?

The Future of Business Intelligence

Information overload is rampant across industries. As enterprises struggle to make sense of data about customers, prospects, internal business processes, suppliers, partners, and competitors, BI is the perfect solution that helps convert this data into actionable information. Modern BI systems are enabling normal business users to create and modify reports, without intervention or support from IT. The result? Improved revenue, increased profitability, and enhanced efficiency. The coming years will see:

  • BI becoming more proactive than reactive
  • Collaborative analytics taking center stage
  • Standardized data, no matter what source it comes from
  • Self-service analytics gaining popularity
  • Access to advanced analytics becoming easier and more widespread
  • Artificial Intelligence ruling the BI market
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Nicky Thakkar
About the Author – Nicky Thakkar

Nicky Thakkar works as a Senior BI Architect in Indusa having experience of diverse data sources, performing data quality, ETL Process using SSIS, dynamic packages and analytics using SSAS multidimensional cubes. She has exposure to data warehousing solution deployed on cloud as well as on-premises architecture and has worked on technologies like Azure Data Factory, Azure DW Services, SSIS and SSAS.

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Contributing Author: Malavika Nityanandam