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What is Business Intelligence, or BI?

Business intelligence, put simply, is any technology item that intelligently provides actionable information for business purposes.  The phrase encompasses a range of software platforms and solutions that allow business stakeholders and decision-makers to quickly see up-to-date data relevant to their operational roles.

The “intelligence” in BI ranges from solution to solution, but the common, overarching theme is that relevant information is only a few clicks away. A very popular piece of many BI solutions is the dashboard: A configurable, highly personalized set of data tailored to the role of the user using it. Another intelligent feature of BI is the pre-calculation of important data points, sometimes drawn from many different data sources within an enterprise.   More advanced BI solutions may include forecasting, trend analysis, and data mining depending on the specific needs of a respective organization.

Data integration is an important facet of many business intelligence solutions. As mentioned earlier, business intelligence solutions often depend on data drawn from multiple points across an organization. Line-of-business software, invoicing, payroll, inventory tracking, SCADA systems, and any other technology that produces data relevant to business operations is considered for integration into an organization’s BI solution. Data from different systems is often gathered into a central repository called a data warehouse. The data warehouse can then serve as the backbone of any other business intelligence solution.

Stakeholders depend on fast, accurate, and visible data when it comes to making critical decisions that impact the movement and growth of their business. Business intelligence affects these metrics in several ways:

  • Automation of report delivery, pre-calculation of important metrics and centralization of organizational data means that information is available fast.
  • Utilizing real-time data directly from source systems reduces risk and increases accuracy.
  • Centralization of information and role-driven dashboards make important trends visible to decision-makers.

Read more about whether the time is right to implement BI.

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