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Business Intelligence: Generating Dollars from Analytics Change

Posted on 12.02.2015

Business intelligence (BI) software solutions provide enterprises an opportunity to gain new (and important) perspectives into their digital and offline operations. The term “business intelligence” includes the technology and processes of transforming previously unstructured data from different sources and visualizing that data in order to expose insights that can drive change.

The Expected Benefits

There are numerous benefits of taking advantage of BI software – none more important than being able to understand and visualize how the various aspects of a business are performing and impact each other. While BI solutions may just seem like an additional, and sometimes unnecessary expenditure for many enterprises, in the right hands they can help key personnel discover insights into the businesses data that was previously walled off or invisible.

BI software, for example, provides reports and dashboards that include their own drill-down style reporting, applying a systematic reduction of data into smaller parts or views that will yield great amounts of information (more interesting information too). BI solutions also formalize key performance indicators (KPIs) and provide a straightforward way for these business users/teams to track and measure future successes (or failures). Overall, BI solutions offer an opportunity to improve specific processes as well as campaigns.

The Buying Considerations

In order to make good use of BI solutions, enterprises should only consider those that help efficiently and effectively visualize, understand and act on the data available. Solutions that support existing applications out of the box (or which have APIs for extract, transform and load - or ETL - processes or some third-party support via existing software integrations such as modules, plugins or extensions), which can consume data from wherever it is located, should be a primary consideration in the question for the right BI solution.

Most users of BI solutions interact most regularly with offerings’ reporting features, so a detailed and intuitive interface will be essential. Some solutions do require some information be provided by the user in order to drill down into the data that matters most, so the availability of pre-built reports is a useful feature. Being able to view data in a variety of ways, graphs, charts, spreadsheets also proves useful.

Some control over the reporting, and how that reporting is developed, should also be a primary consideration for buyers of BI solutions. Users should be able to create their own formulas, filter based on predefined or auto-modeled parameters, and drill down and explore data. The ability to search through and discover data, as well as collaboration/workflow functionality are also well-received features.

While the access to and management of data is important, the best BI solutions on the market today are those that help users get a greater understanding of their audience. Some BI solutions, for example, offer functionality for analyzing current and historical data and make predictions about the future. While intelligence is truly knowing what’s going to happen next, why not leverage the power of these big data services to do the heavy lifting? Let them sift through large and complex data sets, as they are far more efficient and produce more visually expressive reports than most individuals could ever do on their own.

Roadblocks to Greater BI Adoption

The volume of data queried and the number of queries that will be running simultaneously greatly affects a BI tool’s ability to perform these tasks. Data compounds over time and can in some instances grow quickly so ensure the system selected is able to run efficiently. The choice between cloud-hosted or on-premise BI solutions is one that will also impact buying decisions. While cloud solutions do foster collaboration and mobility, on-premise systems can in some instances offer far greater performance and security.

The Required Features of Business Intelligence Solutions

Arguably the most important feature required of business intelligence solutions is that they offer self-service, providing users an immense amount of control.

Users should be able to create fields for their reporting, filter data within a report, drill and explore data on their own, and even search a larger, global data set to find the information they are looking for - some of the more sophisticated tools even suggest different data types and schemas. The best BI tools will even provide a way to convert a set of data values from the data format of the source data system into the data format required for the reporting system (data transformation).

Another useful feature relates to collaboration and workflow. If users can share the data and report they have built within the BI tool as well as outside through other collaboration platforms, these offerings will be far more practical.

Ready for BI?

Business intelligence software is not going to be right for every enterprise. Those with more intense demands when it comes to how it manages data and shares that data with key stakeholders will find these solutions useful in their day to day operations.

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