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What is business intelligence

What is business intelligence?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a buzzword describing the set of strategies, processes, applications, data, products, technologies and technical architectures which are used to support the collection, analysis, presentation and dissemination of business information.

Business intelligence (BI) simplifies information discovery and analysis, making it possible for decision-makers at all levels of an organisation to more easily access, understand, analyse, collaborate, and act on information, anytime and anywhere.

The term business intelligence (BI) simply represents the tools and systems that play a key role in the strategic planning process of the corporation. Typically, there are 5 stages (or elements) in business intelligence:

  1. The data: this stage of BI defines which data will be utilised and analysed.

  2. ETL (Extract, transform and load) of business data.

  3. Data warehousing: connecting electronic data from different operational systems so that the data can be queried and analysed over time for business decision making.

  4. Analytic engine: analysing data to identify trends, outliers and patterns.

  5. Presentation layer: dashboards, visualisations, reports and alerts that present findings from the analysis.

Business intelligence can be applied in all businesses to drive performance. It can be used at a number of levels including:

  • Strategic: focused on high level organisational strategies and directions;
  • Tactical: focused on goals of a business unit and middle management; and 
  • Operational: focused on streamlining day-to-day operations.

Business intelligence is all about getting the right information to the right decision makers at the right time. When used accurately, business intelligence can be an incredibly powerful tool. It can be used to inform and shape your entire organisation’s priorities and activities and ensure you are focusing on the right areas of your business.

However, all too often companies possess large amounts of potentially invaluable data, but find their existing reporting tools or business intelligence processes too complicated and time-consuming to make the most of it. This is where investment of time and resource must take place to ensure that actionable insight can be achieved from business information.