Business Intelligence

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Business intelligence (BI) refers to the applications, infrastructure, tools, and best practices that enable information access and analysis in order to enhance and optimize choices and performance.

Business intelligence offers data visualizations or graphical representations that allow individuals to view and interpret data more quickly and efficiently. Drilling down to investigate details, detect trends and outliers, and adjust which data is processed and/or eliminated is possible using interactive data visualizations. When data is visualized, it becomes simpler to discover developing trends, which is the first step toward gaining insight.

What Is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence refers to the tactics and technology used by businesses to analyze data and manage business information. Reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, dashboard development, data mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics are all common functions of business intelligence technologies.

BI systems can manage vast volumes of organized and unstructured data to assist in the identification, development, and creation of new strategic business possibilities. They want to make it simple to comprehend large amounts of data. Businesses may gain a competitive market edge and long-term stability by identifying new possibilities and adopting an effective plan based on insights.

Enterprises may utilize business intelligence to assist a wide range of business decisions, from operational to strategic. Product positioning and price are examples of fundamental operational choices. At the most general level, strategic business decisions involve priorities, goals, and directions. BI is most successful in all circumstances when it combines data collected from the market in which a company works (external data) with data derived from firm sources internal to the business, such as financial and operations data (internal data). When external and internal data are integrated, they can offer a full picture, resulting in “intelligence” that cannot be gained from any one source of data.

Business intelligence technologies, among other things, enable firms to acquire insight into new markets, analyze demand and fit of products and services for different market groups, and measure the impact of marketing activities.

Data from a data warehouse (DW) or a data mart is used in BI applications, and the ideas of BI and DW are combined as “BI/DW” or “BIDW.” A data warehouse is a copy of analytical data that aids in decision making.

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History Of Business Intelligence

The word “business intelligence” was first used in Richard Millar Devens’ Cyclopedia of Commercial and Business Anecdotes (1865). Devens used the phrase to explain how banker Sir Henry Furnese profited by acquiring and acting on information about his surroundings before his competitors:

According to Devens, the capacity to gather and act on information collected is critical to business intelligence.

When IBM researcher Hans Peter Luhn coined the phrase “business intelligence” in a 1958 essay, he utilized the Webster’s Dictionary definition of intelligence: “the ability to comprehend the interrelationships of provided information in such a way as to lead action toward a desired objective.”

Howard Dresner (later a Gartner analyst) developed the phrase “business intelligence” in 1989 to characterize “concepts and ways to improve corporate decision making via the use of fact-based support systems.” This use was not prevalent until the late 1990s.

Critics regard BI as essentially a development of business reporting along with the introduction of increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly data analysis tools. In this regard, it has also been attacked as a marketing term in the context of the “big data” boom.

Features Of Business Intelligence

Reporting

Business users may stay informed and obtain answers to questions posed at regular intervals by using business intelligence reporting software that collects information from one or more data sources and delivers it in an easy-to-read style. They can create sophisticated, dynamic, pixel-perfect dashboards for thousands of users, as well as ad hoc reports for online, print, or mobile devices.

Analysis 

Users may notice patterns, identify difficulties, and develop insights with data analysis tools intended to analyze, display, and manipulate any sort of data and assist improved decision-making. They can use advanced relational OLAP or in-memory analysis to investigate data from any data source.

Dashboards

Users may see the condition of the business, track key performance indicators (KPIs), develop insight into historical and real-time context, and respond quicker using dashboards that integrate data and graphical indications and give at-a-glance summaries. When software developers incorporate these dashboards into applications where executives and knowledge workers are taking action, they increase the value and competitiveness of their products.

Data Integration

Data integration software that extracts, transforms, and loads (ETL) data from many sources for reporting and analysis can be used to build a data mart or warehouse. Using data virtualization technologies, several distinct relational or non-relational data sources may also be merged and made instantly available.

How Business Intelligence Works

Business intelligence takes four critical processes to turn raw data into easy-to-digest insights for everyone in the organization to use. The first three steps—data gathering, analysis, and visualization—lay the groundwork for the ultimate decision-making process. Prior to the use of BI, businesses had to perform much of their analysis manually, but BI technologies automate many of the procedures, saving businesses time and effort.

Step 1: Gather and convert data from various sources

To collect structured and unstructured data from numerous sources, business intelligence systems often employ the extract, transform, and load (ETL) technique. This data is then changed and redesigned before being stored in a centralized place where applications may simply evaluate and query it as a unified data set.

Step 2: Look for patterns and discrepancies

Data mining, also known as data discovery, is a technique that employs automation to swiftly analyze data in order to detect patterns and anomalies that give insight into the present status of company. BI solutions frequently include many forms of data modelling and analytics, including as exploratory, descriptive, statistical, and predictive data modelling and analytics, which allow users to further examine data, forecast patterns, and make suggestions.

Step 3: Present results using data visualization

Data visualizations are used in business intelligence reporting to make results easier to understand and disseminate. Reporting techniques include interactive data dashboards, charts, graphs, and maps that show people what is happening in the business right now.

Step 4: Act on insights in real time

Viewing current and historical data in the context of business operations enables businesses to swiftly go from insights to action. Business intelligence allows for real-time modifications as well as long-term strategic improvements that minimize inefficiencies, respond to market movements, fix supply difficulties, and resolve customer complaints.

Applications Of Business Intelligence

Business intelligence may be used for the following purposes:

  • Performance measurements and benchmarking provide business executives with information about their company’s progress toward its objectives (business process management).
  • Analytics quantifies processes in order for a firm to make best decisions and find business information. Data mining, process mining, statistical analysis, predictive analytics, predictive modelling, business process modelling, data lineage, complex event processing, and prescriptive analytics are all examples of analytics. Academic research, for example, has investigated the potential for BI-based analytics in credit evaluation and customer attrition management for managerial adoption in the banking industry.
  • BI data may be used to inform strategy in business reporting. Dashboards, data visualization, executive information systems, and/or OLAP may be used in business reporting.
  • By facilitating data sharing and electronic data interchange, BI can enhance cooperation both within and beyond the organization.
  • Knowledge management is concerned with the generation, distribution, use, and management of business intelligence and, more broadly, corporate knowledge. Learning management and regulatory compliance follow from knowledge management.

Proficiency Of Business Intelligence

Business intelligence platforms, which include security and auditing services, a metadata layer, and multi-tenancy, are used to deliver business intelligence solutions.

Tools for Authoring and Design

  • Database connectors and drivers are used to connect to data sources. Custom data sources may be defined in some business intelligence applications.
  • A wide variety of visualization formats are available, including interactive HTML5 charts and maps, as well as support for creating custom visualizations to build reports and dashboards.
  • Expressions can be used to alter the appearance and behavior of data, text components, chart characteristics, hyperlinks, pictures, and other elements.
  • Self-service, drag-and-drop design environment is available for business users with little to no technical knowledge.

Services for Security and Auditing

  • Reports, dashboards, and analytical views are stored in a central repository.
  • Access to reports and analytics down to the row and cell level is restricted.
  • Services for auditing and monitoring diagnostics, compliance, and performance metrics
  • Support for single sign-on (SSO) with a customizable API to make integration and configuration with third-party identity management solutions easier.

Metadata Layer

  • Business-friendly fields representing relational or non-relational data 
  • Filters and security rules are applied at the metadata layer.
  • Without the use of ETL or data warehouse technologies, various data sources may be combined into a single metadata view.

Multi-tenancy

  • Java, XML, and HTTP protocols are used to access a web service-based platform.
  • CSS-based user interface for customizing, device and tenant-specific UIs, and corporate rebranding
  • Extensibility of the ata source for merging with relational, olaP, and large data sources

Distribution

  • Export to a variety of file formats (PDF, XLSX, PNG, DOCX, PPT, JSON, XML, etc.).
  • A scheduler is used to specify the timing and rules for the release of reports, dashboards, and other analytic material.
  • JavaScript API for embedding into web pages and apps.
  • iFrames for easy embedding into apps and web sites over HTTP Mobile SDKs for BI integration into mobile applications

Types Of Business Intelligence

Static Reporting

This type of business intelligence reporting provides a consistent picture of data from operational data storage. Some reports are ready to print, while others may be downloaded as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or in another format. Static business intelligence reports give a snapshot in time, often derived from the application’s live operating database. This sort of reporting is most commonly used for reports that have a pre-determined layout, such as bills, statements, and periodic updates.

Controlled Interactive Reporting

The success of a functional application frequently results in new business requirements and new problems for the organization in charge of the application. The end user controls the chart types, filters, and layout in this type of business intelligence reporting. It is most commonly used for dynamic lists, filtering results, and conditional highlighting. With information sharing and pre-defined key performance indicators, managed business intelligence reports assist drive corporate performance (KPIs).

Highly Interactive Dashboards And Reports 

While the reports mentioned above give precise application information for line managers and shop floor users to make daily tactical choices, they may not be suitable for executives or line of business managers. Executives may not require operational applications on a daily basis, but rather snapshots of business performance and process tracking on a weekly, daily, or hourly basis. A business intelligence performance dashboard examines short- and long-term trends while providing rapid access to underlying facts to assist managers in reacting to KPIs and highly graphical indicators.

Self-service Reporting For Operational Services 

This report feature enables you to develop unique business intelligence reports for a variety of activities that are not part of a bundled operational application. There are two alternatives available to the user. They can have direct database access to the operating application schema and download a CSV file of the data to their local PC, or they can utilize a report design tool for more complicated needs. The second option is a user-friendly report design environment for ad hoc reporting and analysis. Users can create a simple semantic layer that sits on top of the application database. Users may create their own business intelligence reports on demand using these features and a graphical drag-and-drop report builder, without the need for extra assistance. Finally, this form of reporting allows people to assist.

Self-service Data Exploration For Deeper Insight

Users may utilize business intelligence to study their data and gain a deeper understanding. A retailer, for example, may choose to investigate a range of data aspects such as wholesale unit prices, retail pricing, inventory ageing, shipping costs, and product marketing data. To do this, users may either create bespoke reports or utilize data exploration tools that allow them to easily identify the data they want and answer questions about their ad hoc searches.

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Benefits Of Business Intelligence

  • Quicker insights

Give everyone the ability to rapidly and simply translate data into insights. Data visualization facilitates the discovery of patterns and the rapid identification of outliers. The data assists in establishing an understanding of how the firm is operating and what possibilities and hazards are emerging.

  • Smarter and quicker decisions

Organizations can make data-driven choices quickly. Because interpreting information and engaging with others to get insights from it is now a much quicker, fact-based process, the days of making judgments based on gut feeling are long gone.

  • Product and service value is increasing.

Data has enormous value, but most users lack the time and patience to master a specialist business intelligence application. By incorporating self-service analytics into apps and business processes, organizations can make data access easier and data analyses more intuitive for users.

  • Analytics made simpler for everyone

Today, technical teams may save time and effort by not having to write bespoke code for each report or visualization. Instead, businesses may now empower end users to view and extract information from data on their own.

Disadvantages Of Business Intelligence

  • Breach of Data

The potential of leaks is one of the most important problems of any data analysis technology. If we utilise BI apps to manage sensitive data, an error in the process might disclose it, causing harm to our company, customers, or workers.

Security problems were recognized as the most significant difficulty confronting BI by more than 30% of firms polled. However, due to the ubiquity of this issue, many BI suppliers take it seriously and will include comprehensive security measures. Always evaluate the security choices of different applications and providers while comparing them. It may also be beneficial to be cautious about the kind of data we enable our BI to access.

  • Expensive

The cost of business intelligence tools might be prohibitively high. While the potential for a significant ROI may justify this, the initial cost may be prohibitive for smaller businesses. We must also evaluate the price of the hardware and IT personnel required to efficiently install the programme.

We can save money by choosing self-service BI solutions over a more conventional methodology. These technologies will help us to avoid costly IT assistance while also shortening the time it takes to deploy or modify our BI.

  •  Difficulty in Analyzing Various Data Sources

The more comprehensive our BI, the more data sources we’ll employ. A range of various sources can be valuable in providing well-rounded statistics, but systems may struggle to function across multiple platforms.

The good news is that this issue is progressively fading. More sophisticated BI systems can include a variety of data types. We can seek for all-in-one BI software that provides these capabilities, or we can utilize standalone tools such as data connectors to aggregate all of our disparate data.

  •  Subpar Data Quality

We have more information at our disposal than ever before in the digital era, yet this may be troublesome. A glut of data may imply that much of what our BI tools evaluate is unnecessary or unhelpful, muddying outcomes and delaying operations.

We may avoid this by launching a data quality control strategy. It’s also a good idea to employ key performance indicators that are relevant to our specific demands and goals.

  •  Adoption Resistance

Not all BI drawbacks are related to the software. One of the most significant challenges for BI is the unwillingness of individuals or departments to integrate it into their operations. If our organization does not implement these processes in all areas, they will be ineffective.

We may aid our employees’ acceptance of BI by making it easier to integrate. They are more likely to use our software if it is user-friendly and everyone knows its benefits.

Read more

Hindol Basu 
GM, Voxco Intelligence

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