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.Sign up for free
Defining Business Intelligence (BI)
First, let's start by defining what 'business intelligence (BI) is. Here's how Gartner defines BI:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Essential features of BI software
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.
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.
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.