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What is Business Intelligence?


By University Alliance
What is Business Intelligence?

Applying data to strategic, tactical work

Business Intelligence (BI) is not just one thing, but a group of programs and systems that are geared to help organizations use massive amounts of raw data, typically generated by their operations, to drive better business decisions, cut costs and help identify new opportunities and customers.

It’s all about providing the right data at the right time to the right people so they can make the right decisions.

BI is driven by data from internal systems and data warehouses, central repositories of data from disparate sources. Additionally, with the increase in outsourcing, whether manufacturing or warehousing and delivery, sometimes the data must be sourced from third-parties.  

A variety of applications fall under the BI umbrella. These include:

  • Measurement programs, for business performance metrics and benchmarking of progress towards business goals
  • Analytics programs that build quantitative processes informing decision-making and assisting in business knowledge discovery (Analytics may involve data and process mining, predictive analytics and modeling, and prescriptive analytics, among others)
  • Enterprise reporting, as opposed to operational reporting, help build the infrastructure for reporting that supports strategic management decisions
  • Collaboration programs, geared to help different areas that are both inside and outside the business, working together through data sharing and electronic data interchange
  • Knowledge management programs, designed to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of the insights and experiences that constitute business knowledge

Harnessing the power of business intelligence is becoming a consistently high business priority. To increase satisfaction, leaders must champion BI as an important strategy to drive long-term business success and put measures in place to ensure alignment around goals. This opens the door for professionals with business intelligence education and skills who can meet today’s BI challenges head-on and effectively resolve them.

At a tactical level, getting accurate insights is a key challenge – which revolves around the quality of the data being used. As the basis of any business intelligence initiative, it’s imperative that businesses ensure their data stores and warehouses operate optimally to avoid developing insights from data that is flawed.

Another issue is a general lack of understanding of the components that comprise the various business processes. These include the activities involved, the way information and data flow across them and how people use this data to help them with their role in the process. For improved performance, this understanding needs to be developed before BI projects begin, an important role of the BI professional.

Done right, business intelligence has the potential to render impressive results. The City of Albuquerque saved $2 million over two years by employing BI to hone in on opportunities to achieve operating efficiencies, like cell phone usage, overtime and other operations. 

Business intelligence is about analyzing an organization’s performance to find ways to improve, driving profitability and growth. Modern IT systems, the evolution of a digitally networked world and the resulting explosion in data have enabled BI to be performed at increasingly sophisticated and higher levels. The challenge for businesses is to discover how to most effectively harness its power to achieve company goals.

Category: Business Intelligence