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Business Intelligence 101

Published on 29 October 13

Every business is built upon hundreds of decisions. The measure of how successful a business is or becomes is also based on many decisions, whether those decisions were smart or misplayed. How does a leader or employee make a decision? Sometimes decisions are made based on facts, figures and forecasts but mostly they are spur of the moment, intuition-based or simply company policy. Business Intelligence offers a platform for which decisions can be based on measurable, calculated and real data collected, stored and accessed by the click of a button.

What is BI?

Business intelligence (BI) is a large category of applications and technologies used for collecting, storing, analysing, and providing access to data in order to help enterprise users make efficient business decisions.

Using BI software, users can profile customer behaviour, evaluate buying patterns, detect opportunities to reduce costs, and isolate top customers. The software consolidates data from different sources and stores it in a data warehouse. Results are displayed through a reporting, analytics or dashboard interface depending on the specific software used. This common platform is used and shared throughout a company.

Different Shapes and Sizes

BI tools can be used across a wide spectrum and comes in different ranges with different strengths. For example you can use tools to assess the prospective returns on a certain type of investment or web analytics helps specifically with making decisions regarding the operations of a company website. Some advanced BI tools map trend analysis and forecasting. Other custom-built advanced systems use artificial intelligence and mathematical formulas to sift through information and provide complex data analysis.

Types and Groups

Business intelligence tools can range from reporting and querying software; tools that extract, sort, summarize, and present selected data. There are also tools such as OLAP (Online Analytical Processing), digital dashboards, data warehousing, precision engineering, and process mining. These tools are sold as individual tools or grouped in suites.

How BI Helps Decision Makers

The importance of BI lies in the fact that business decision-making is based on real information, rather than hunches and notions. A users experience and innovation is still important, but it is coupled with real usable data rather than guesses and intuition.

BI applications can also help your business by sifting through an enormous amount of data to simply present you with vital information that adheres to your objectives and tasks at hand, making you meet deadlines and manage time in a much more efficient manner.

How to Maximize BI Usage

In order for BI applications to fully support your business, users must keep the information relevant by allowing the applications to evolve and feeding them up to date information.

Make sure the data BI tools are reporting off remains reliable. If data collected does not reflect your objectives, the BI tool will not operate efficiently and will not give you useful, relevant, and workable decisions.

Is Investing in BI Worth the Money?

Depending on the size and scope of the business, and how much data is generated and requiring management, BI applications can certainly make data management and retrieval far less arduous. Not to mention that decisions can be based off real data, thus reducing the risky gambles.

Prices vary depending on the size of the deployment and the type of solution you need. For instance, a small-size company needing BI solutions for its marketing department can use hosted solutions and pay a monthly subscription fee. A larger-size company can deploy solutions for an average of $6,000 $10,000 for 10 employees.

There are free business intelligence solutions, and prices can range from nothing to upwards of $100,000. Even with free, open-source solutions there will be costs for implementation, development and maintenance as investing in BI is an ever evolving and growing process, hopefully hand in hand with the growth and success of your business.
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