If you are starting your journey into the world of business intelligence (BI), we’ve come up with this helpful guide. It focuses on the common questions asked by new BI users. We’ve anchored it on the software’s purpose but also go on to explore other pertinent areas such as what it is and what it can do for your business. For a comprehensive look at this type of software, you can head over to our in-depth analysis of business intelligence and learn more about its features, types, and pricing.
Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the tools, technologies, applications, and practices used to collect, integrate, analyze, and present an organization’s raw data in order to create insightful and actionable business information. BI as a discipline and as a technology-driven process is made up of several related activities, including:
Since you’re already aware of what is the purpose of Business Intelligence in a business it’s worth tackling the question of what are its main benefits. The potential benefits of business intelligence programs include:
Business intelligence tools are essentially data-driven Decision Support Systems (DSS). BI is sometimes used interchangeably with briefing books, report and query tools, and executive information systems. With these tools, business people can start analyzing the data themselves, rather than wait for IT to run complex reports. This information access helps users back up business decisions with hard numbers, rather than only gut feelings and anecdotes.
Business Intelligence software systems provide historical, current, and predictive views of business operations, most often using data that has been gathered into a data warehouse or a data mart and occasionally working from operational data. Software elements support reporting, interactive “slice-and-dice” pivot-table analyses, visualization, and statistical data mining. Applications tackle sales, production, financial, and many other sources of business data for purposes that include business performance management. Information is often gathered about other companies in the same industry which is known as benchmarking.
Sisense is a business intelligence platform that lets users join, analyze, and picture out information they require to make better and more intelligent business decisions and craft out workable plans and strategies.
Sisense currently occupies one of the highest spots on our list of top 10 business intelligence apps. After a thorough analysis of its features, our software review experts concluded that this business intelligence solution gives you one of the easiest ways to create insights and business value from complex data. You can read their detailed review of Sisense, discussing its features, pricing and user experience at length.
The vendor also offers a great free demo plan that lets you try out all the key features first. You can easily sign up for Sisense free demo here.
With Sisense, users can unify all the data they ever need and want into visually appealing dashboards via a drag and drop user interface. Sisense basically allows users to turn data into highly valuable insights and then share them with colleagues, business partners, and clients via interactive dashboards.
Sisense is the leading business intelligence software for many companies, ranging from startups and developing enterprises to Fortune 500 giants including eBay, Sony, ESPN, Comcast, and NASA.
Looker is a data platform with insights for every department. It’s a data-discovery app that provides an intuitive approach to data exploration. It offers a web-based interface that business users can utilize to tap into the expertise of their data analytics team.
They can build and share reports on the fly, so other functional groups can benefit from the questions they’re asking and the knowledge they’ve created. Thus, Looker can help all companies use data to drive their business decisions and activities in the right direction.
With a little bit of SQL knowledge, you won’t have any issues making Looker work for you or building your own analytic modules. You can design visualizations with a single code, as complexity depends only on how far you intend to go to refine your experience.
Looker’s ML code is there to help you produce and optimize your queries, which is particularly handy as most BI systems expect you to be an expert in the area.
The vendor offers a free demo where you can examine all the crucial features of the software. You can easily request Looker demo here.
Datapine gives you BI and data visualization to help you makes sense of your organization’s data. With its capabilities, you’ll be able to unravel actionable so you can make smart business decisions, craft and implement effective strategies, and realize corporate goals in the most efficient manner.
The software offers limitless dashboards, intuitive drag and drop interface, and a large selection of charts to help you dig deep into your data and visualize it. Datapine’s centralized data management allows you to connect every source of data in your company, whether internal and external, and consolidate them in one location.
Having a single data warehouse makes it easy for the software to process and analyze trends and patterns and visualize results for specific data. Its modern and responsive dashboards will show you insights and information you need to guide you in business decisions and next-step actions.
Datapine integrates with nearly two dozen third-party apps and services including CRM, online storage, web services, analytics platforms, and SQL servers. You have the option to use it on-cloud or on-premise. You can take it for a spin. Just sign up for a Datapine free trial here.
Zoho Analytics is the data analytics app in the Zoho software family. It was formerly known as Zoho Reports which was re-engineered into a more robust cloud-hosted platform which comes complete with online reporting, drill down analytics, and self-service business intelligence. The software is designed to process big data, track KPIs, identify trends, and discover insights.
Zoho Analytics provides tools and capabilities to give you a complete picture of your business’ health and performance across the various units in your organizations. It is able to consolidate data coming from different sources and give you reports through dashboards and visualizations. The software comes with a smart assistant named Zia which harnesses AI natural language processing to give you answers through reports and KPI widgets in response to your questions.
The BI solution integrates with most other Zoho apps as well as with dozens of external software and services. Although primarily a cloud-based platform, you also get the option to have Zoho Analytics deployed locally on your computer. You can sign up for a Zoho Analytics free trial here if you want to take the software for a test drive.
Yellowfin is a BI and analytics software built to speed up the process of providing you actionable insights and data-driven forecasts on your business’ performance. The software offers three main tools – Assisted Insights for automatically giving you’re the “why”; Yellowfin Signals that instantly notifies you if changes happen; and Yellowfin Stories which provides narrative and context that you can share. The BI solution helps you analyze data and discover actionable information for better understanding of your organization’s processes and performance.
The integrated analytics platform specializes in giving you detailed explanations on why you got the results after its analysis of your data. In doing so, you get a clearer picture of your company’s situation and makes it easier to come up with intelligent business decisions. Also among Yellowfin’s offerings are collaboration features, automated reporting, and web-based ETL and visual-data preparation tools for accelerated data analysis.
Yellowfin can integrate with your other apps and can report on virtually any data source regardless if you deploy it on-premise or in the cloud. You can sign up for a Yellowfin free trial here if you want to test it for yourself.
AnswerDock goes beyond basic analytics by utilizing natural language programming and artificial intelligence to instantly give you answers to your business questions. All you have to do is type your query, just like when you’re doing a web search, and the system will automatically run its powerful data mining algorithms and search-based analytics to give you answers in easily understandable visual forms like charts, graphs, and tables.
In contrast to conventional analytics tools, the cloud-hosted solution delivers intuitive and comprehensive tools and capabilities such as data governance, insights discovery, automated data indexing, and automatic chart selection. It is able to combine data from multiple sources whether internal or external to give you an integrated view of your organization and the business environment. Get hands-on with this software. Just sign up for an AnswerDock free trial here.
Hotjar is a cloud-hosted analysis and feedback solution designed to give you a deeper understanding into the behavior of your users, visitors, and customers. Its purpose is to give you total visibility on user interaction and engagement so you can leverage their experiences to increase conversion rates. Two primary tools are offered – analysis and feedback. The first lets you observe and gauge user behavior while the seconds allows you to see the actual user activity on your site. Other tools and features included in the software are form analytics, heatmaps, visitor recording, and conversion funnels.
Enabling you to further feel the pulse of your audience are tools designed to help you listen to what your users say. You can roll out surveys, polls, surveys, user testers, and incoming feedback. There are also advanced feedback tools settings for more control over your feedback widgets. Hotjar integrates with over a dozen third-party apps and supports up to 40 languages.
ReportPlus is data visualization software built for enterprises and can be deployed on-premise or via a private cloud. This is a self-service business intelligence software designed with accessibility and ease of use, allowing users to create, edit, and share their dashboards within a few clicks without IT assistance. Its drag-and-drop functionality and fuss-free touch-enabled swiping to switch among a wide selection of visualization types make it easy to create vivid visualizations on any device. On-the-go accessibility ensures that even field employees are equipped with up to date and real-time information at all times.
ReportPlus can be utilized by various types of industries. This includes businesses under finance, insurance, marketing, manufacturing, operations, retail, and sales. Real-time data can be accessed and connected through integrations with various third-party applications such as Google Drive, Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft Excel, SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Twitter, Facebook, Google Analytics, and much more.
QlickView lets you discover rich insights by allowing you to build your own guided analytics apps without the need for IT or programming skills. This way you get a shorter time to value and the ability to respond quickly to changing business requirements. You’ll be able to create customizable guided analysis paths for discovering business-driven data as well as control analytic experience for helping employees make intelligent decisions. QlikView offers an Associative Data Indexing Engine to unravel patterns and hidden trends which can be used as a guide for making quality business decisions and proper next actions.
QlikView provides custom or default data connectors and open database connectivity. It can integrate with all software ecosystems, eliminating the need to use various data processing systems. You can also choose to deploy the software in the cloud, on your local computers, or both. Likewise, it offers collaborative tools for sharing data and insights with your team or with stakeholders.
Tableau is a desktop BI system intended to help you visualize and understand your company data. Instead of a chart builder, it gives you a live visual analytics tool for unlimited data exploration. Together with interactive dashboards, you can identify visual patterns fast, discover hidden insights quickly, and reveal everyday opportunities that you can take advantage to improve decision making and company performance. The software is able to connect to multiple data sources – spreadsheet, SQL database, cloud apps like Salesforce, on-premise reports – regardless of data size.
You can display and publish results with dashboards and share them with anyone. If you’re already using Tableau Online or Tableau Server, data can flow and move seamlessly from one platform to another. This facilitates self-service analytics from whatever device, letting you get instant answers for your business questions.
Sharing is vital to the success of BI projects because everyone involved in the process must have full access to information to be able to change the ways that they work. BI projects should start with top executives, but the next group of users should be salespeople. Because their job is to increase sales and because they’re often compensated on their ability to do so, they’ll be more likely to embrace any tool that will help them do just that—provided, of course, the tool is easy to use and they trust the information.
With the help of BI systems, employees modify their individual and teamwork practices, which leads to improved performance among the sales teams. When sales executives see a big difference in performance from one team to another, they work to bring the laggard teams up to the level of the leaders.
Once you get salespeople on board, you can use them to help get the rest of your organization on the BI bandwagon. They’ll serve as evangelists, gushing about the power of the tools and how BI is improving their lives.
When charting a course for BI, companies should first analyze the way they make decisions and consider the information that executives need to facilitate more confident and more rapid decision-making, as well as how they’d like that information presented to them (for example, as a report, a chart, online, hard copy). Discussions of decision making will drive what information companies need to collect, analyze and publish in their BI systems.
Good BI systems need to give context. It’s not enough that they report sales were X yesterday and Y a year ago that same day. They need to explain what factors influencing the business caused sales to be X one day and Y on the same date the previous year.
Like so many technology projects, BI won’t yield returns if users feel threatened by, or are skeptical of, the technology and refuse to use it as a result. And when it comes to something like BI, which, when implemented strategically, ought to fundamentally change how companies operate and how people make decisions, CIOs need to be extra attentive to users’ feelings.
Remember, BI is about more than decision support. Due to improvements in the technology and the way CIOs are implementing it, BI now has the potential to transform organizations. CIOs who successfully use BI to improve business processes contribute to their organizations in more far-reaching ways than by implementing basic reporting tools.
The following are three of the latest trends in the Business Intelligence field:
Absolutely! With cloud-hosted and SaaS business intelligence solutions, the software has gone down to affordable levels and within easy reach to organizations of whatever size. Previously an exclusive tool of large corporations able to maintain expensive processors and systems to crunch and analyze big data, today’s BI software tools hosted online are cost-effective solutions that won’t break the bank.
Now, there are even self-service analytics and BI tools you can access and use without the need of IT background to give you answers on your business health and performance as well as identify opportunities and trends to help you make information-driven decisions. In other words, BI has leveled the playing field. You as a small business owner get to use the tools that large businesses also use to gather insights on the market, the business environment, and on their organization. You can read our list of the best business intelligence tools for small and big business to keep you updated.
There is no question on the benefits of business intelligence when it comes to helping you reduce cost, improve revenues, reduce risk, speed up decision and action processes, and gain data visibility across your organization. The software will prove to be one of your most important business tools. To see how it works, go on a tour with our top product in the BI software category. Simply sign up for a Sisense free demo here.
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