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How business intelligence can keep your organization in the know

Business success depends—in large part—on knowing the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the market. How popular are your products or services with consumers? What are your competitors doing? Why are consumers choosing one brand over another? How—and when—will the market change? What are the trends for the future?

Business intelligence (BI) solutions can help companies get those answers.

What is a BI solution?

Search the internet and you’ll find a variety of definitions for BI. In general, a BI solution is a combination of strategy and technology for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data from internal and external sources, with the end result of providing information about the past, present, and future state of the subject being examined.

The terms business intelligence and business analytics are often used interchangeably. The term business analytics refers to examining data to find trends and insights. When used together, business intelligence and business analytics has a broader meaning and includes every aspect of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data. For our purposes, the terms will be the same.

Current business intelligence/business analytics solutions offer applications to help the user at every stage of the process to gain actionable information. This includes applications for data preparation, analysis, data visualization, reporting, and collaboration for use on premises, at the desktop, in the cloud, and away from the office with mobile capability.

Making the most of your data

BI solutions have the potential to be an essential tool for decision-making and strategy development. The resulting information can be used throughout a company, from marketing and sales to supply chain and finance, for tasks such as:

  • Measuring marketing campaign results
  • Gaining visibility into cash flow, gross margins, and operating expenses
  • Capturing insights about employees and prospects to optimize HR processes and recruitment
  • Tracking parts and material trends and supplier performance
  • Forecasting revenues and transactions
  • Optimizing call center and depot staffing levels
  • Obtaining cross-enterprise views
  • Uncovering new revenue opportunities and patterns

Business intelligence can help everyone in your organization. But to do that, it needs to be a special kind of solution.

Meeting the challenge

The average enterprise solution requires an IT department to set up the environment and, in many cases, connect the internal and external data sources. Historically, IT was responsible for all business intelligence, since these solutions usually required specialized expertise such as an in-depth knowledge of SQL or extensive scripting for data preparation.

What you should look for in a Business Intelligence solution

To make business intelligence an effective solution for business units—or anyone else without that technical knowledge—the solution has to be as user friendly and accessible as possible for all levels of employees throughout an organization.

A Single Platform

Consider a solution that offers a single, integrated platform of applications. Many organizations have a legacy business intelligence ecosystem featuring multiple solutions for reporting, discovery, analysis, and other functions. Working with all those solutions can be expensive and require extensive technical knowledge. Multiple solutions can also create compatibility issues.

A single platform approach offers an end-to-end solution that covers gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data—everything working together so that there are no compatibility issues. With everything in one place, there’s no need to go hunting for tools. You can centralize your data models and metrics for a comprehensive representation of your business—something that can be difficult to accomplish with a multisolution ecosystem.

In the Cloud

A business intelligence solution should be easy to access by users across your enterprise and on the road. A cloud solution offers the highest potential for accessibility and availability. It can be accessed when and where it’s needed, for individual use or shared with coworkers.

A cloud solution can also be easily scaled to fit an organization of almost any size and flexible enough to meet the demands of a growing business.


Most business intelligence solutions have the capability to connect with one or more data sources. Consider a solution that offers prebuilt connections. With this type of solution, it’s easy to load and integrate data from diverse sources. Prebuilt connections eliminate the time needed to make the connections and reduce the complexity of the solution, enabling your IT people to focus on other tasks.

Augmented Analytics

You want a smart solution that can make business intelligence easy—one with augmented analytics employing embedded machine learning. This kind of solution can help users in gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and conveying information—simplifying and automating tasks.

It should be able to automate data preparation, collecting information from multiple sources and consolidating it, accelerating the process and reducing the chance of errors. It should also be able to augment your analysis by recommending new data sets to include in the review for more accurate results.

You want a smart solution that lets you quickly and easily search for what you need and get to the data directly with the capability for you to ask questions and receive answers in human language.

Some solutions even offer a semantic layer that allows users to access data and modify requests and data set parameters using common business terms.

A user should also be able to easily access predictive analytics and forecasting to see patterns and forecast future outcomes and trends—without the need to know coding. A smart solution with embedded machine learning can offer that advantage and more.

Data Visualization

Many smart solutions come with data visualization, which provides the capability to automatically transform data into pie charts, graphs, or other type of visual presentation. Users can quickly and easily see and understand patterns, relationships, and emerging trends that might go unnoticed with a spreadsheet of raw numbers.

With data visualization, users can get new and unique insights by creating rich data mashups. They can craft stories around their business with high-impact visuals. No specialized training is required to interpret what’s presented in the graphics.

Data is pulled from internal and external sources. Then, users have a choice. They can decide between numerous options which graphic is best for presenting the data. Or they can allow the application to automatically make a recommendation based on data results.


To be a true business tool, a BI solution must be designed for businesspeople to use on their own—a self-service solution.

Your BI solution should be easy to navigate with point-and-click or drag-and-drop features. It should have some type of dashboard with intuitive, interactive access to information and offer guided, step-by-step navigation and built-in functionality so that customization is not required. It should give users a choice of doing a task themselves or employing automation to handle it.

Users should have full control to load their data and analyze it from any angle to uncover issues and new opportunities. They should be able to mash-up and blend internal and external data for deeper insights. When it comes to sharing what they’ve learned, users should be able to create their own reports.

Users should be able to discover the answers to their most pressing business questions and communicate their findings to their peers and management teams across the enterprise—without waiting for a response from IT.


In today’s fast-paced world, businesspeople need access to intelligence around the clock, no matter where they are. So consider a BI solution with mobile capabilities.

Mobile BI solutions are available with voice-enabled access and real-time alerts. You can talk to your data using a search-driven approach. You can view, analyze, and act on data in the cloud or on premises. You can create mobile analytical apps with rich, interactive visualization without writing a single line of code. You can build apps once and distribute anywhere—all from your phone or tablet.

A solution that incorporates AI and machine learning can provide you with a personalized assistant that understands what you need—when and where you need it. For example, say you have a business meeting in New York. The personalized assistant can determine what business report and graphics are required for your business meeting. It can translate speech to text and alert you when new data is available to analyze.

You won’t have stay tethered to your desk to analyze information. With a mobile device and a cloud-based BI solution, your analytics can come to you, wherever you are.

Making the Intelligent Choice

Every organization needs business intelligence. But to make sure that everyone in your organization has access to your data whenever and wherever they need it, you’ll want to choose a smart, easy-to-use, feature-rich BI solution. Stay in the know by getting the most out of your data.