Breaking Down Business Intelligence
Business intelligence is a broad term that encompasses the technology and techniques that companies use for data analysis.
Get a better grasp on business intelligence, BI tools, and where AnswerRocket fits in with this BI guide. Scroll down to learn more.
Table of Contents
What is Business Intelligence?
The term business intelligence has been around since the 1800s. In the modern era, it’s a fairly simple umbrella term that encompasses many complex business processes and activities.
Business intelligence (BI) refers to technologies and services used to analyze business data and uncover actionable findings and insights for executives and other corporate users to leverage.
Essentially, business intelligence seeks to make sense of big data, not only managing the sheer volume but generating strategy-focused takeaways.
Forrester explains the business intelligence definition well, stating, “Business intelligence (BI) is a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information. It allows business users to make informed business decisions with real-time data that can put a company ahead of its competitors.”
Every business is searching for the same thing — a competitive advantage and sustainable stability. With business intelligence, companies position themselves to strive for that goal.
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Business Intelligence and Data
With the rise of omnichannel marketing, companies have access to more data than ever before. The customer journey is no longer a simple circular pathway, but a complex web of interactions. With each opportunity for engagement comes an outlet to receive more data. At the same time, the diverse ways in which businesses can interact with their customers can lead to incredibly complex data sets.
How do business intelligence solutions accommodate such data? Well, it depends on how the data is structured.
Structured data is data with a definitive format and length, usually stored in a database. Examples of structured data include numbers, dates, or groups of words called strings. Structured data can be stored predictably in columns or rows, like that of a spreadsheet. As a result, it’s much easier to process than unstructured data.
Unstructured data is information that does not mold well to a database and is not formatted consistently. A common example of unstructured data is text, which is produced and collected in a large variety of formats (email, word documents, social media posts). The majority of most business data is unstructured.
What Data Structure Means for BI
Data structures operate on more of a sliding scale than binary categories. Semi-structured data, for example, refers to data that is largely unstructured but may be labeled with structured meta-data.
Business intelligence tools can automate the analysis of structured and semi-structured data to provide insights in seconds. Structured data also holds immense potential in the hands of BI with machine learning capabilities, as these tools can analyze thousands of data combinations to determine complex data relationships and pinpoint the source of trends.
When BI tools can do the heavy lifting of structured data, business people can spend more time focusing on setting strategy and analyzing unstructured data from a human perspective.
BI for unstructured data is far more complicated and requires reduction of unstructured data into a data model before it can be analyzed by a BI interface.
Business Intelligence Software Basics
Business intelligence software is designed to accomplish many necessary functions for its users. Here’s a breakdown of what the technology typically has the capacity to accomplish, broken out by role, as well as some of the BI software features you’ll encounter as you research the solution that is best for your company.
Data Scientists and Analysts
At its core, BI software should make the jobs of data scientists and analysts far easier. Reporting should be simpler. To start off with, a business intelligence platform needs to let you connect to your data, no matter where it is. Whether your data is on-premises, cloud-based, or a mix of both, you should be able to access it. From Salesforce to Excel to Microsoft SQL to Hadoop and beyond, pick a platform that connects with all of your critical data sources.
Once you’re confident that you’ve selected a platform that will work with your various data sources, look for an option that checks the following boxes:
- It is designed to make prepping and modeling data easier.
- The advanced analytics features are user-friendly and accessible for those who are capable of taking full advantage.
- The software enables you to create interactive, customized reports for your business’s unique needs.
- Reports and visual analytics are readily accessible and digestible for non-technical users.
However you look at it, it is clear that business intelligence is deeply embedded in the roles and responsibilities of analytics departments, so it is crucial that you put your best forward with an advanced and capable software solution.
The right BI software can be a huge win for marketing teams. The better a marketer understands past and current performance, the better they can strategize for driving customer acquisition. Data is the key to that enhanced understanding.
Business intelligence technology should help pull together your data, run various marketing analytics, and report on the findings, all as quickly as possible — and preferably — in real time.
From social and web analytics to customer data, your BI solution should be ready and able to meet your marketing needs while answering your marketing questions.
Sales is metrics driven. Your sales team is going to be asking questions like “Have we reached our monthly sales quota?” and “How is our region performing compared to other regions?” You need a solid BI solution in order to answer those questions effectively and efficiently.
Look for software that can help you perform sales pipeline analytics, win-loss analysis, opportunity studies, and KPI tracking. Then, you can leverage your enhanced data capabilities to identify opportunities to shorten the sales cycle and grow revenue.
Generally speaking, your entire sales team should be able to leverage dashboards and scorecards to track performance against targets and business requirements. Pick a platform that equips your team with the visibility it needs to close deals and bring in revenue.
Business intelligence provides a huge opportunity for financial analysts. Make a greater impact given your time and resources with an advanced BI solution.
Those in finance need to track professional success metrics like company growth compared to competitors, percentage growth over time, profitability, market share, and more.
While looking to convert raw data into those metrics, your average financial analysis team is also going to be simultaneously struggling with forecasting errors, uncertainty, disparate data, and lack of collaboration and communication.
Business intelligence technology can help your team solve for those challenges while tracking the right metrics.
Learn More About AI in Business Intelligence
The new eBook, “The State of AI in Business Intelligence: The Features You Should Look for Today,” explains how AI is augmenting the workforce and revolutionizing business analytics.
With AI-driven BI, business people can get faster, more comprehensive insights that drive action. This resource helps leaders understand how AI can be leveraged as a competitive advantage as more companies invest in this technology.
Learn more with the eBook.
The Top BI Tools
The market is full of business intelligence solutions, which is great for buyers. While the selection process can be intimidating and getting buy-in from leadership comes with its own set of challenges, developments in business intelligence software help make the case for the new investment.
If you’re looking to see what analytics platforms are out there, below you’ll find a BI tools list that highlights some of the best offerings in the industry.
The Bottom-Line Benefits of BI
Ultimately, BI should help people act on the information they learn. BI tools provide insights into data that would take a person more time and effort to generate. As such, people can leverage BI tools to respond to opportunities and challenges alike. Moreso, advanced BI tools enable employees to be proactive, instead of reacting to static or outdated reports.
By displaying complex data as visualizations, for example, BI tools make data accessible to decision-makers. Often, the people who determine business strategy aren’t as technical as analysts or the IT department. As BI tools have become more user-friendly, more employees are empowered to make data-driven decisions.
The value of speed cannot be understated. When employees can use BI tools to assist them in understanding their data, they can work much more efficiently. Time that would be spent culling through reports and spreadsheets can be put toward setting business strategy instead. The cost of cumbersome data processing is then invested in growth efforts.
AI, BI, and AnswerRocket
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a huge topic in tech. In the data and analytics space, the combination of machine learning and natural language processing are changing the way companies approach their data. It’s making it possible for business users to forecast future trends and automate analysis in a way that was previously unimaginable.
Data analytics providers have been working for years to incorporate AI technology into business intelligence tools. Now, a few years into this trend, the most established version of this pairing is augmented analytics. Gartner coined the term, explaining that augmented analytics automates insights using machine learning and natural-language generation.
AnswerRocket is a leading augmented analytics platform, leveraging AI and BI to help its end users find growth opportunities faster than the competition. With business intelligence features such as dashboards and data visualizations and AI technology that automates processes and offers deeper insights, the AnswerRocket platform is a leading solution in this new era.