What is business intelligence?

Decision support system, BI, business intelligence are among the many synonyms that are used when discussing business intelligence. The large amount of accurate data that has become more accessible, allows business intelligence to go further. But what is it exactly? And how can it help you?

What exactly is business intelligence?

It always helps to start with a definition, and this is especially true of concepts as broad as business intelligence. In fact, there are so many ways to design a business intelligence system that to define it out of context is always going to appear more conceptual than applicable. But rest assured, business intelligence concepts are key to applying BI systems in a measurable, constructive way.

Business intelligence can be defined as the following: 

The total sum of all the technology and tools a business uses to manage data, analyze performance and make better decisions.

With this definition in mind, the meaning of BI should become clearer. No two BI systems are the same, but there are a number of business intelligence concepts and components that frame the application of BI intelligence for an organization.

Business intelligence concepts and components

Business Intelligence (BI) is best thought of as the application of a range of methodologies to improve the operational effectiveness of an enterprise.

That means BI is not about how fast a company can adopt new technologies but rather stresses the way in which enterprises integrate and manage hardware and software in a way that drives desired performance outcomes. 

From an application perspective, BI has a few standard components, which, taken together, make-up standard BI architecture. These are:

Advanced Analytics. Tools that perform complex integrated statistical analysis that help enterprises make accurate predictions or data-driven decisions in operations. From marketing analytics to supply-chain tracking systems and beyond.

Real-time BI. Data and information is connected in real-time across platforms, accounts, and devices. Metrics are shared through email, interactive display platforms, or messaging applications used by enterprise employees. These performance management solutions track operational performance and user performance and present the outcomes in reports, graphs, charts, and easy-to-interpret metrics.

Data warehouses. Data from internal and external sources is stored in data warehouses and managed, organized, and interpreted and presented by BI systems. Generally, in the interest of clarity and precision, each department has a unique data warehouse architecture – there is one for marketing, one for finance, etc.

Business intelligence benefits

Enterprises that adopt BI systems tend to see the following benefits:

  • Boost operational efficiency by giving employees the tools and insights to be highly productive
  • Increase revenue through a range of marketing analytics tools that boost ROI and find and/or retain customers
  • Make confident strategic decisions based on data modeling and predictive analytics, using all the data on hand
  • Reduce downtime of software / equipment through predictive analytics
  • Decrease operational lag via metrics that highlight areas of weakness or issue that need to be addressed

While the metrics that matter vary from business to business, the underlying market conditions are the same: businesses that can find a competitive advantage are going to survive and thrive, while businesses that stick with the status quo are setting themselves up for failure.

Whatever BI concepts are systems an enterprise adopts, one thing is clear: Business intelligence systems give enterprises the capability to be as efficient, as productive, and as successful as they possibly can be given their IT infrastructure, the industry in which they operate, and other fixed factors. And that, above all else, is the core benefit to implementing a BI system.

What exactly is business intelligence?

Gartner analytics defines business intelligence as “an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, as well as best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.”

It is therefore a very broad concept, which includes many tools. In other words, we could say that it is a set of tools, strategies and technologies, which provide you with valuable management information.

How can business intelligence help you?

Analyzing this valuable information, allows your company to make more informed decisions bringing many benefits. For example, you can improve your customer retention and reduce error discrepancies in your interactions by using business intelligence tools and approaches.

Is business intelligence something recent?

We could already hear echoes of this expression being used in the business world back in the 19th century. It was used in a book of entrepreneur anecdotes. It told the story of a banker who had benefited from obtaining privileged information that his competitors did not have.

But it is only in 1958 that the term is theorized in the article “A Business Intelligence System” written by the computer scientist Hans Peter Luhn. He describes it as “an automatic system that is being developed to disseminate information to the various sections of any industrial, scientific or government organization”.

The popularization of the modern meaning

In 1989, Horward Dresner; a consultant who later became an analyst with the Gartner Group, redefined the term business intelligence with its current meaning: “concepts and methods to improve business decision-making by using fact-based support systems.”

However, it was not until the end of the 1990s that the expression became widely popular. The business intelligence toolkit has become much more sophisticated since then.

Where does business intelligence stand now?

Just a few years ago, companies almost systematically had to go through Excel to obtain their reports or to implement complex and costly data management platforms.

Business intelligence evolution with Dynamics 365

Business intelligence evolution with Dynamics 365

For the Microsoft Dynamics 365 ecosystem, it is only as of 2011 that charts and dashboards are made accessible via CRM. And since the arrival of Dynamics 365 in 2016, many options continue to be added in order to benefit from the latest technological advances in data analysis preparation and delivery while allowing fluid consumption through the Dynamics 365 application or mobility. This allows you to save time and to make the best decisions.

The latest business intelligence approaches will allow you to resolve a good majority of significant CRM issues. This will be the topic of our next articles.

Would you like to know more about business intelligence? Our experts can answer your questions. Contact us.

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