Business intelligence (BI)

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 a wide variety of tools, applications and methodologies that enable organizations to collect data from internal systems and external sources, prepare it for analysis, develop and run queries against that data and create reports, dashboards and data visualizations to make the analytical results available to corporate decision-makers, as well as operational workers.

Importance of business intelligence

Overall, the role of business intelligence is to improve all parts of a company by improving access to the firm’s data and then using that data to increase profitability. Companies that employ BI practices can translate their collected data into insights of their business processes. The insights can then be used to create strategic business decisions that improve productivity, increase revenue and accelerate growth.

Other potential benefits of business intelligence tools include:

  • accelerating and improving decision-making;
  • optimizing internal business processes;
  • increasing operational efficiency;
  • driving new revenues;
  • gaining competitive advantage over business rivals;
  • assisting companies in the identification of market trends;
  • spotting business problems that need to be addressed.

BI data can include historical information stored in a data warehouse, as well as new data gathered from source systems as it is generated, enabling BI tools to support both strategic and tactical decision-making processes.

Initially, BI tools were primarily used by data analysts and other IT professionals who ran analyses and produced reports with query results for business users. Increasingly, however, business executives and workers are using business intelligence platforms themselves, thanks partly to the development of self-service BI and data discovery tools and dashboards. The BI market is expected to experience continuous growth as tools increasingly incorporates both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Ad hoc analytics
Online analytical processing
Mobile BI
Real time BI
Operational BI
Software-as-a-service BI
Open source BI
Collaborative BI
Business intelligence for big data

BI platforms are increasingly being used as front-end interfaces for big data systems. Modern BI software typically offers flexible back ends, enabling them to connect to a range of data sources. This, along with simple user interfaces (UI), makes the tools a good fit for big data architectures. Users can connect to a range of data sources, including Hadoop systems, NoSQL databases, cloud platforms and more conventional data warehouses, and can develop a unified view of their diverse data.

Because the tools are typically fairly simple, using BI as a big data front end enables a broad number of potential users to get involved rather than the typical approach of highly specialized data architects being the only ones with visibility into data.

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