What is Business Intelligence (BI) Software?

Looking to learn exactly what business intelligence software is, and how it can help you? Here's a complete rundown, and how you can get started using it.

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Defining Business Intelligence (BI)

First, let's start by defining what 'business intelligence (BI) is. Here's how Gartner defines BI:

Business intelligence (BI) is an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.
BI software applies to the "infrastructure, tools and apps" part of the above definition. It's the software that lets you analyze data and information, and in so doing, helps you improve and optimize the business decisions you make.

Who should use BI software?​

Bi software can be used by anyone who wants to analyze data. However, it's the management side of an organization which uses it the most. From managers  all the way up to the CEO and founders of a company, BI software helps users take informed decisions based on data.

  • Across Business Types
  • Across Departments​

Across Business Types

  • 1. Small and Medium Businesses

    There was a time when BI software was expensive, and was used only by large enterprises. But Cloud Business Intelligence (BI) software solutions today are very much affordable for small and medium businesses (SMBs). SMBs increasingly take advantage of this fact, and use BI solutions on the cloud

  • 2. Large Businesses

    As the saying goes, "data is the new oil." Large enterprises use Business Intelligence (BI) analytics software to continuously mine data from across the applications and databases they use.

Across Departments​

  • 1. Sales

    How is the sales pipeline looking for the next few months? Who are my top and bottom performing sales reps? Which regions and products should I concentrate on to maximize profits? Sales managers can answer these questions with BI software solutions.​

  • 2. Marketing

    Marketing professionals run many marketing campaigns across many channels. How effective each of these campaigns are, how marketing metrics like page views to visitors to sign ups is doing, the top five performing regions, products, and services—these are all questions that marketers want answers for.​

  • 3. Finance

    Beyond looking at the balance sheet, cash flow, and profit and loss statements, smart finance professionals right to the CFO level, now ask deep questions of their financial data.​

  • 4. Human Resources & Recruitment

    HR managers need to be on top of the number of people being recruited, how many people are leaving the organization, effective workforce utilization, productivity trends, and more. Recruitment agencies need to monitor metrics like the average time for filling job positions, selection ratio, cost incurred per hire, offer acceptance rate, and which sourcing funnels are being effective. ​

  • 5. Operations

    Operational—or admin—expenses form an important part of any organization's balance sheet. CFOs need to always keep a tab on admin expenses, as any leakage here will harm the company's performance.

Benefits of using BI software

Why do businesses use BI software? Why should you use BI software? Let's look at some of the benefits:.

  • Crunch large quantities of data

    Whether it is gigabytes or petabytes, crunch your raw data into interpretable graphic reports.

  • Visualize any data

    Create visualizations for any type of data

  • Single version of truth

    Get one complete view of your data, instead of multiple segmented spreadsheets floating around

  • Actionable insight

    Pnpoint the cause of problems, and find the subsequent actions you have to take to fix them.

  • Optimize business operations

    Optimize your business methods and processes, based on the visualizations you generate.

  • Grow your business

    Identify growth areas for your business—which geographical regions to concentrate on, which products or categories can bring in more growth, and more.

  • Cut expenses

    Identify where unnecessary expenses are making your business bleed, and stop them.

By using a business intelligence (BI) software, you get


Increase in productivity


Increase in revenue


Time saved on report creation


Increase in ROI


Drop in expenses


Decrease in response time

Building blocks of BI software


    data from multiple sources


    your data

  • BI

    through collaboration


    the visualizations

Essential features of BI software

BI Software Solutions - Zoho Analytics
  • 1. Data sources

    Make sure the BI software you choose supports analyzing data from a wide variety of sources. Data can be anywhere—in the form of files, web feed URLs, databases (both on-premise and on the cloud), business apps, and more. The business intelligence software you choose should connect with data from any source

  • 2. Visualization options

    Your BI software should allow you to visualize data in myriad ways. There should be many options to choose from—chart types, color palettes, widgets, themes, and fonts, among others.

  • 3. Self-service

    Data is seen as a democratized commodity across organizations now. While a department can own the data, everyone across an organization needs access to it, to create their own visualizations. Users feel empowered when they create the reports they need on their own. Your BI software should be easy to use for any business user.

  • 4. Sharing and collaboration

    Your BI software should allow you to collaborate with your peers and clients easily. It should allow fine-grained access control—who can see, and do what—and be able to hold conversations about the visualizations created.

  • 5. AI-augmented analytics

    Till recently, AI wasn't an essential feature for BI software. But AI, assisted by technologies like machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), is becoming a must-have, as it assists users to generate reports and insights more readily.

  • 6. Accessibility

    Accessing your BI software from any device is a necessity. This allows you to be up-to-date, wherever you are. Having the reports be interactive on mobile devices is an added bonus.

Begin your BI journey with Zoho Analytics

A cloud BI pioneer since 2009, Zoho Analytics is now available in a downloadable version, too. More than 10 million business users and 100,000 businesses in 120+ countries around the world rely on Zoho Analytics as their BI dashboard software. Zoho Analytics helps businesses crunch and analyze large quantities of data every day, allowing business users to make informed decisions.

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