What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence Definition

Business intelligence is a technology-driven process that leverages information from software to transform and deliver the data into actionable insights. These insights are used to inform and guide a company’s strategic business decisions.

Source: IBM

How BI works: 4 Stages

Microsoft lists four key steps that BI takes to transform raw data into coherent pieces of information that can be used across all departments in an organisation:

Why Do We Need Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence helps companies to analyse both their current and historical data. Having developed significantly since the 1960s, BI is now automated, intuitive, integrated and user-friendly. Modern business intelligence enables individuals company-wide to make better-informed decisions that provide optimised output and competitive advantage, amongst many other benefits.

  • Increased efficiency: when utilised correctly and accurately, business intelligence solutions enable you to achieve all of your goals and objectives as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. You can spot internal trends in your marketing campaigns or sales outreach techniques, monitor your inventory, forecast outcomes, and more, all of which work to improve performance and productivity.
  • Improved customer experience: BI enables companies to gain insight into customer behaviour — to access customer information all in one place. With this, you can determine the best ways to allocate and direct resources in order to positively impact customer experience, engagement, and support.
  • Enhanced decision-making: BI delivers specific, real-time insights on-demand. There’s no need to play the guessing game or scroll through mountains of data to uncover one specific insight which, by then, might be out of date. BI tools like data visualisations that you see on your dashboard allow you to make an at-a-glance judgement. This means you can make data-driven decisions, quickly, based on real information.
  • Clear benchmarking: Business intelligence is based on current and historical, allowing you to analyse your performance over time: how did the performance of your previous marketing campaign compare to your current one? What did you do differently and how could that be impacting efficiency, output, and objectives? The knowledge that BI can give you facilitates future benchmark-setting across campaigns, teams, and the company as a whole.
  • Alert to data anomalies and customer issues: by analysing reports or exploring your dashboards, BI lets you see what is and isn’t working within your business. With this information, you can react quickly and rectify any issues that your campaigns or your customers may be facing.
  • Cross-departmental transparency: the analyses and insight that BI tools offer can be shared across different departments in real-time. This increases operational efficiency and cohesion, allowing your workforce to be more focused and streamlined.
  • Competitive advantage: BI solutions display direct insight into your customer’s behaviour. Are you seeing a sudden increase in sales? What does this tell you about the market? Is a specific KPI over or underperforming, and what could be causing this? Business intelligence insights like these mean you can spot potential issues or opportunities which keep you ahead of the game.

Conclusion

BI is a growing industry that has proven advantages in modern business. Business intelligence tools and solutions are no longer reserved for use only by data analysts and IT professionals. Now, business intelligence platforms are available for everyone, from content marketers to business development professionals, HR executives to finance teams — BI is a comprehensible and valuable tool for people to use company-wide. With BI, every person in every team is a knowledgeable decision-maker, equipped with relevant, real-time data that can be used to optimise business processes and achieve company-wide goals.

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