Why is business intelligence (BI) software useful? Whether you’re an enterprise, a small business or even a startup, BI can help in the following:
Business Intelligence (BI) software is a set of tools and systems designed to analyze data and present actionable information to help key people make informed decisions. Business intelligence tools allow organizations to obtain external and internal data and detect patterns and trends that enable them to discover strengths and weaknesses, and quickly adapt to changing scenarios. This gives top management, department heads, managers and other decision makers the means to improve day-to-day as well as strategic management processes to move their organization forward.
Why is business intelligence software useful in today’s competitive business environment? BI is data gathering and in a digital and connected world, data is a powerful advantage. However, data in itself – raw and unstructured – serves you no purpose if you can’t make sense out of it. Imagine a scenario where you and your marketing team are caught off guard when your competitor re-launches a product that was a hit years ago and is now selling like hotcakes. They probably did their research and you didn’t. If you had BI tools, you would have made analyses of historical data and found the product was ripe for re-introducing in today’s market and beat your competitor to the punch. But the other way around happened and you got the receiving end.
Business intelligence would be able to crunch previous and current data to give you crucial information that would guide you in your business decisions, anticipate what’s about to happen, and be quick on the draw with actions anchored on qualified and quantified information. Uninformed decisions often lead to business failures. You’ve heard of stories of business success derived from gut feel. Those were the times when information was not readily available and data mining tools didn’t exist. With BI, intuition-based decisions have been taken over by information-driven decisions.
What is the current situation of the BI landscape today? It’s quite positive and on the upswing, according to studies. In fact, the BI and analytics market growth is projected at $20 billion by 2019. One BI study found out that 89% of business leaders believe that big data will revolutionize business operations just like the Internet. Meanwhile, cloud systems are getting preference as 80% of respondents to a research stated that they are “highly satisfied/satisfied” with cloud BI compared with 51% for on-premise BI users. And ultimately, it was revealed that companies using analytics are five times more likely to make faster decisions.
Facts and statistics point to compelling reasons for the use of BI, thanks to powerful tools and software utilized for the job. Which brings us to our title question – why is business intelligence software useful? Primarily because of the many benefits it provides. We are one with experts who say that if you want your business to have a competitive edge, invest in a BI system.
In no particular order, here are the things you can gain from business intelligence software, and how it can be extremely useful and positively impact on your business.
Yes, it’s cliché but knowledge indeed is power and much of that knowledge is generated from data produced through the Internet nowadays. An incredible amount of data is generated around the world everyday – around 2.5 exabytes – including those churned out by your company that find their way through emails, tweets, online announcements, chats, SMS, social media pages, and official websites. We haven’t even included data produced internally by your organization. An exabyte is approximately one billion gigabytes. The worldwide daily estimate of two and a half billion GB of data produced include videos, images, emails, text, audio, social media messages, documents, files, etc. And the data just adds up day after day.
Not all those data will have a bearing on your business, but for those that do you’ll still need a robust tool to collect, filter and sort them out. Even if you confine data gathering to within your organization and the immediate external environment, that’s still a lot of data to contend with. BI software will give you the means to collect data that matters, clean and process them, and provide you a greater understanding of the workings of your business. Being able to harness data and information related to your business operations and strategy puts you on potent vantage point from where to conduct your business, see the business landscape, undertake informed decisions, and get ahead of your competitors.
Two of the many functional components of BI are descriptive analytics and predictive analytics. The former is widely used and accounts for majority of all business analytics today. It mines historical data and past performance and understands the reasons for the success or failure of such performance. Most management reporting relating to operations, finance, sales, and marketing uses this analytical method to answer the “why” and make adjustments to current operational activities and strategies. Now to answer “what would happen”, predictive analytics come to play combining historical data with forecasting techniques, algorithms, and external data to predict probable future events or the likelihood of a situation happening.
What does these mean for your business? You’ve got essential time periods covered – the past to solidify your present, and the past and present to prepare you for the future. Imagine not having these capabilities of BI and you’ll likely lose your way in the maze of competition – blind to the lessons of the past, unable to make critical changes and quick responses to present issues, and totally in the dark on what will happen next – all formulas for business failure. With BI software, you’ve got your bases covered up to the time that is yet to come.
With data filtered and purified, and presented in easy to comprehend visualizations and graphic reporting, you get to see things in a clearer light and react quickly to issues. Time is always of the essence with it comes to decision making, and making the right choices at the right time could impact on your company’s revenue and strategic direction. We’ve mentioned this earlier that companies who utilized BI tools are on average five times more likely to make faster decisions. In a cutthroat business race, that’s like a critical 5 second head start from your nearest competitor.
A reliable BI system provides you swift responses to any analytical query relating to your business. These responses can aid you to make real-time decisions without having to pull out a bunch of files from the cabinet in frantic search for data to justify the decision you’re about to make. The time of traditional Excel-based decisions are long gone, superseded by the modern BI-assisted way of best-of-course action.
This capability of BI software will not only aid in making faster decisions but also result in less guesswork and greater productivity. BI gives you the big picture in your organization – visibility into the processes that goes on, enabling you to have better control over those processes and pinpoint areas that need improvement. With a good business intelligence system, you can eliminate one of the most time consuming activities which is going over voluminous pages of detailed reports to evaluate the performance of your organization’s processes. You can simply hand that task to a team of BI-trained analysts who can do the work more accurately and in shorter time. Less risk, less load, more efficient work, and a more precise and expansive view of what goes on as far as performance and processes are concerned, all done with BI tools to let you handle decision-making with a quantitative and data-driven approach.
While it can be the result of improved visibility, enhanced efficiency is also the outcome of many other BI features and functions. BI essentially is data gathering, analysis, and visualization. Information and insights that are produced from those BI functions are what organizations and decision makers apply to boost efficiency and productivity. One of the great things about business intelligence systems is that it allows easy sharing of information across different departments in your organization – sideways and vertical in the hierarchy. Information sharing reduces duplication of duties or roles within the organization and enhances the usefulness, relevance, and precision of data generated by various departments.
BI software can easily pull data from different organizational units, analyze them, and produce uniform visualized reports. Imagine the time, effort and resources saved by such a process as compared to the conventional way of each department collecting their own data, making their respective assessments, and generating reports unique to their unit, then presenting them to management. You as the head honcho would not even know where to start reading when presented with an array of disparate, divergent reports on your table. BI frees up time otherwise spent on gathering, analyzing, sorting, organizing, unifying, and presenting data. Time is money you save when your employees are more efficient and productive.
The power of knowledge again comes to fore especially when you know what your customer wants to buy and what they’re likely to buy in the days or months ahead. You can ask them directly, although such approach often does not result in a desired response. Or you can do it subtly but more effectively by studying their buying behavior and collecting and analyzing data on consumer trends, product preferences, times and seasons of high buying activity, demographics, changing tastes and consumption patterns, and other parameters and variables. BI software can do all those and more.
Again, the tools and techniques employed by BI software – data mining, forecasting, statistics, descriptive and prescriptive analyses – will play out to tap data from customer channels such as website visits, phone calls, product purchase, emails, inquiries, chat and others to give you insights and patterns on their preferences and purchasing probabilities. These equip and prepare you to readily provide the service and product they want. Recall our scenario in the beginning when a competitor re-launched a product and you’ll realize the powerful advantage you get with BI’s capabilities. You can introduce products that meet current consumer trends, mix your product line to serve a wide group of customers as possible, tweak marketing strategies to align with purchasing practices, or anticipate what’s going to be hot items. In other words, you’re ready with all scenarios and can immediately address customer demands now or tomorrow. Of course, this translates to better customer service.
According to a 2014 Nucleus Research study, organizations that invest in analytics solutions such as business intelligence software experience average returns of $13.01 for every dollar spent. That ROI figure is up from $10.66 for each dollar spent three years earlier. How are returns realized? Operational efficiency, greater productivity, automated data-related processes, improved customer service, and better overall performance, among others, contributed to savings and earnings, positively impacting the organization’s bottom line. A 1300% ROI for every dollar you spent on BI and analytics speaks, once and for all, to the significance and effectiveness of BI software for organizations wanting to get that competitive edge by harnessing today’s technologies.
We can go on, but the above are enough to show the usefulness of BI software. Business intelligence transcends organizations and businesses of whatever size, type and industry. The belief that BI is only for big business does not hold true nowadays with the prevalence of robust cloud BI platforms that you can subscribe to for mere double-digit figures a month. It’s a solution for businesses big and small, leveling the playing field so that everyone gets the chance and the means to make it in the ultra-competitive world of business. Now let’s get to know briefly some of the top business intelligence software out there that you can try. Links to full product reviews are provided so you can learn more about the software.
Sisense is a multi-awarded business intelligence software used by startups, SMBs and Fortune 500 companies. It lets you instantly reveal business insights from complex data of any size and coming from any source to help you drive your business forward. With its intelligent tools, it can easily clean up complicated data from various sources, analyze data through interactive visual analytics, and present insights to get the answers that you need. It offers custom pricing for features to match your requirements. You can easily try its features at no cost when you sign up for a Sisense free demo here.
This end-to-end BI software can be quickly deployed and can take you from data integration to visualization in no time without the need of additional tools. It boasts of the shortest time-to-insight and unmatched TCO, with no scripts to master, no DBA to manage the platform, and no manual mashups to maintain. It features ad hoc analysis, centralized data hub, drag-and-drop interface, filtering and calculations of critical metrics, integrated data connectors, browser-based dashboards, and a wide selection of charts and graphs, among others.
Looker is a data discovery software that lets you access fresh, reliable data and drill deep for insights and information. Over 700 companies worldwide utilize the platform that can be deployed on premise or on cloud to help them explore and visualize data. It is easy to navigate, doesn’t require complicated coding, and can drill into data across interactive charts and tables. It uses a flexible language-based approach for efficient data exploration, faster query execution, and optimized performance. The software also has collaboration features, customizable dashboards, exportable reports, in-database architecture, real-time data exploration tools, third-party app integration capability, and more. The vendor also offers an attractive free demo for those who’d like to check the features before committing to a plan. You can sign up for a Looker free trial here.
ReportPlus boasts of self-service BI designed by user experience experts and made for business users. The platform is touch enabled to make it simple to build dashboards as well as views and share rich visualizations anytime, anywhere, on any device. You’ll be able to combine disparate data sources without writing code, and access and connect directly to data anywhere in real time. You get a selection of over 30 visualization types to create robust, customizable dashboards through drag-and-drop functionality. The software comes with a variety of integrations, KPIs and metrics, advanced IT admin capabilities, and solutions to analyze and track sales, marketing, manufacturing, retail operations and others. You can easily sign up for a ReportPlus free trial here.
QlikView is a BI data discovery solution for creating guided analytics apps as well as business dashboards. Its data indexing engine allows you to uncover data insights and relationships across various sources through default and custom data connectors and open database connectivity connections. The system offers guided exploration and discovery and collaborative analytics for sharing insights. Moreover, it allows you to create and deploy analytic apps without requiring technical skills, letting you respond quickly to changing business requirements, undertake shorter time to value, and get more insights across your organization.
Tableau is a business intelligence system intended to help companies visualize and understand their data. The solution allows businesses to quickly connect, visualize, as well as share data without the need for programming skills. You can create and publish dashboards and share them easily with others from your Tableau Desktop on any web browser or mobile-based device. Some of its features and capabilities include connection to various data sources, intuitive interface, advanced collaboration, several methods for data investigation, embeddable and shareable dashboards, data notification, dashboard commenting, data importing of all sizes and ranges, and metadata management.
ScrapeStorm is a cloud-based data scraping platform that leverages artificial intelligence to make sense of your website data. Offering a simple and straightforward interface, this is created for users who want to consolidate, visualize, and analyze their business data without the need for extensive coding experience. ScrapeStorm is equipped with a variety of features that include flowchart modes, auto data identification, one-click downloading, as well as intuitive data scraping. It can even save your data to any format such as CSV, XLS, and HTML so that storing and accessing them in your database is simpler than ever. What’s more is that the platform offers advanced crawling methods and supports XPath, JSON, HTTP, and POST so you can get your data faster.
“Useful” can mean a lot of things – helpful, effective, convenient – in other words, all the advantages that can raise your business to the next level. There are many upsides to implementing a BI system in your organization and we’ve tackled some of the most important ones. Essentially, BI software is useful because it helps you make sound, intelligent decisions. The modern way of doing business and be successful at it is to be flexible, responsive, and smart – attributes that rely heavily on intelligent decisions. BI software is of immense value in helping you arrive at those kinds of decisions that matter if you aspire for your business to make it. Now that you know how important BI is to any business, you can also read our 15 Best Business Intelligence Tools For Small And Big Business here and get to know the top players in this field and find one that matches your situation.
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