Business intelligence (BI) is an umbrella term for anything that can be considered “smart business.” It’s an advanced form of information technology designed to analyze raw data and turn it into actionable insight.
BI includes gathering raw data, transforming that data into quickly digestible information, analyzing data to find hidden patterns, predicting the future based on the key pattern found in the results of the analysis and finally sharing this information with users so they can make better-informed decisions.
The goal of using BI software is to help all employees use every piece of relevant data at their disposal while still ensuring clarity and ease of use. The result is that BI is used to increase organizational performance via faster, better decision-making. It has the power to reduce costs and discover new opportunities.
What makes business intelligence software different from standard enterprise software?
Business intelligence tools include features built specifically for analysis, visualization, exploration, reporting, and optimization—all of which are designed to help users make sense of information in a way that enables them to draw meaningful conclusions quickly.
Standard enterprise software creates reports using simple spreadsheets or databases where data must be crystallized into numbers before it can be processed by the software.
On one hand, this allows users to see their processes as they happen whereas BI tools allow users to anticipate outcomes based on key patterns found during the analysis process. While both types of software provide information, BI tools are designed to do so faster and easier.
Business intelligence is a collection of software applications that can be used as a tool for understanding your company’s business operations.
In the context of SharePoint 2010/2013, you could consider it another type of web-based application that runs within your environment. It uses the same security permissions model, hardware requirements, etc.
BI software enables any user in an organization to access data quickly with minimal outside assistance. The goal is to provide all employees with quick access to key business information enabling them to make better decisions in regards to their respective roles in the overall organizational structure.
This makes sense when considering how many companies rely on customer service representatives (CSRs) who may not be involved in the sales process.
By providing this information to more employees, it may lead to increased productivity across all departments assuming everyone is making decisions informed by data analysis rather than subjective thought.
It also has the added benefit of empowering employees because they feel more trusted and able to make important decisions without having to wait for someone else’s approval.
BI software is built on top of Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint, which act as knowledge repositories that store information gathered from different sources then transformed into charts, graphs, and other visual representations aimed at guiding users toward better-informed choices.
The main components of BI include gathering raw data (from any number of sources both internal and external), transforming said data into something useful via aggregation, calculations, and visualization, analyzing the data in real-time for key patterns that suggest future outcomes, and finally sharing the results with users in an easy-to-digest format.
Microsoft is currently one of the leading providers of business intelligence software including Excel 2010/2013 (the latest versions), SQL Server 2012, SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Edition (with PowerPivot), Performance Point Services (included with SharePoint 2010/2013 Enterprise Editions), and Reporting Services (included with SQL Server 2012).
While there are several different BI applications available today, Microsoft’s offerings span across all platforms both desktop and mobile allowing them to cover more ground than their competitors. This widespread coverage ensures increased productivity since end-users can always access information on any device.
Business intelligence has many uses these days but one of the most popular is to provide managers with insight into how their employees are using the company’s resources.
For example, an operations manager could use BI software to see which machines are being used at any given time and for what purpose leading them to make informed decisions about staffing levels, ordering new supplies, etc.
This takes away some of the guesswork involved in management leading to increased productivity by allowing key business processes to run smoothly without requiring additional oversight from above.
The result should be fewer production errors due to miscommunication or lack of proper information which has a direct impact on your bottom line. This type of data collection can also lead to more effective marketing campaigns since companies can better identify which marketing methods are working and which ones aren’t.
Understanding what BI software is, why it’s important and how it can be used to increase organizational productivity leads us to the next logical question: where do I get this type of software?
These days most enterprise-level organizations have some sort of BI platform in place but for those that don’t, Microsoft offers a comprehensive set of tools designed to help SMBs get started. This includes SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise Edition (with PowerPivot) for the end-user collaboration on data analysis reports integrated with Excel/PowerPoint functionality, SQL
Server 2012 Enterprise Edition for centralized data storage and retrieval capabilities including SSRS Reports, Performance Point Services (included with SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Edition) and finally Excel 2010/2013 (the latest versions) which can be used to build and share data models and reports.
Once installed, BI software is designed to help you feel more confident about making decisions resulting in increased productivity and reduced errors over time.