Business intelligence (BI) tools are programs, software, and applications that are designed to help locate, retrieve, analyze, and document data. More simply, business intelligence tools are designed to make the flow of data manageable, allowing organizations large and small, the ability to turn unstructured data into something actionable.
However, there are many different kinds of tools available, and not every solution is going to be a perfect fit for every business.
Although big data as a tool for business may seem like a new development, the truth is the concept itself has been around for several decades. As such, the industry is much more mature and diverse than many realize. That having been said, most BI tools and BI reporting tools fall into one of three categories:
These tools make it possible for those without extensive training in business intelligence, data mining, or statistical analysis to work directly with captured data. This allows decision makers faster access to valuable information, as it eliminates the need for specifically-trained, BI-focused IT teams. Self-service BI tools rely on intuitive interface design, as well as limited training.
- Guided analysis and reporting
Although this category includes basic, static reports, it has recently expanded to also encompassing more hands-on variations. Dashboards, spreadsheets, and BI search tools are all examples, with the underlying correlation being that the IT department is the one responsible for managing the data.
- Advanced IT
These tools help with modeling data and using larger big data stores. Predictive analytics can also be used by these tools to help with identifying which pieces of data are valuable to the overall success of an organization. Advanced tools are used almost exclusively by specially-trained data scientists, and tend to focus heavily on the assimilation, distillation, and integration of data.
Certain tools may feature some amount of overlap between the categories, making them well-suited to different kinds of data use.
Although the specific focus of these different categories may vary, most types of BI tools provide similar benefits when used correctly. These benefits include:
- A reduction in costs
Although there are certainly costs associated with the implementation and operation of any BI tool, the reality is that the ROI is generally large enough to make up for those expenses. This is because BI-tool automation helps to reduce or eliminates costs associated with data collection, report generation and programming, and IT training. And this doesn’t take into account the added profit that is likely to come from the correct implementation of said tools, which can offset costs even further.
- Access to reliable and improved information
Although there will always be a certain amount of risk involved in business, BI reporting tools help to minimize that risk. By providing real-time, hyper-accurate reports, and by assisting organizations to better understand the information being detailed, BI helps eliminate the need for guesswork.
- Data access in real-time
When decision makers are forced to wait for reports to be compiled by IT teams or other departments, then the information being shared runs the risk of becoming out-dated before it can be put to use. Allowing users to access the refined data directly means that information bottlenecks are effectively eliminated, and the availability of data dashboards makes it possible for large amounts of relevant information to be assimilated at a glance.
- Universal platform-compatibility
With more and more businesses relying on BYOD policies, it is becoming ever-more common for key decision makers (and others within their organizations) to use mobile devices while working. Cloud-based BI tools feature the added benefit of being accessible across any internet-enabled platform, allowing access to vital information, whenever, and wherever it is needed. In fact, in 2016, the cloud will drive more than 7% of the total BI, analytics, and performance-management market.
- Coordination of data-models
There are any number of conflicting definitions and understandings within the broader concept of BI. However, by committing to a single business intelligence tool across an entire organization, a these definitions are synchronized, for a more coordinated and exact effort across every department. Integrated documentation can also help users can also help users understand relevant definitions, KPIs, and other factors.
- A context-relevant exhibition
The ability to see information as it relates to the entire organization, rather than as raw, unrelated numbers, makes it possible for companies to make better-informed decisions.
- Enhanced insight for better results
Taken together, many of these individual benefits result in a single, all-encompassing advantage—the confidence that comes from having advanced insight. 51% of business-intelligence adoption leaders are characterized as those who instill confidence in their teams. Improved understanding of customer wants and needs, emergent trends, ongoing processes, operational costs, and a myriad of other important factors can give an organization the self-assurity it needs to be able to find ongoing success.
Taking into consideration that by the year 2020, 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second, for every human being on the planet, and that by then our annual digital universe will have grown to 44 zettabytes—approximately 10 times its current size. There’s little doubt that the future of business belongs to big data. Therefore it is imperative that businesses implement tools that will help them in any way possible shift through the mounds of data coming their way.
And although there will always be a certain amount of risk when it comes to making business decisions, that risk doesn’t have to be so perilous. Consider all the benefits mentioned earlier as a roadmap to find the right tool for you. By adopting a reliable business-intelligence solution, organizations can enjoy the confidence to move forward in an increasingly data-driven world.