What are the real benefits of business intelligence systems? Are they just expensive illustrative graphs? Let’s take a closer look.
While certainly, BI provides statistical insight into your business it is capable of much more. It helps you make important and, more importantly, informed decisions. Most companies already have databases full of valuable information. BI software helps you take advantage of it and improve your business processes. But first, let’s look at what this type of software actually is.
Business intelligence systems are enterprise software solutions that analyze data and convert it into insights used to make tactical and strategic decisions. These insights can come in the form of graphs, dashboards, maps, charts, reports, and other visual representations. The main purpose of such services is to provide complex information in an accessible, quick, and easily digestible way.
By their nature, BI systems are decision support systems (DSS) driven by data. Often used in conjunction with the various query and report tools, briefing books and other solutions of this ilk. However, most modern business intelligence systems already include them in their functionality. This has transformed BI from just one tool to a one-stop system for most business needs. More on the later though.
The functions of BI services also include data analytics. They gather historical and current statistics and also provide predictive looks into the future. Data warehouse is another crucial feature. It accumulates information from different sources in one centralized place allowing easy access to it.
Even though most users are happy with just dashboards and visualizations, other features such as OLAP (online analytical processing), ETL (extract, transform, load), and drill-down are also among the most commonly requested ones, especially in custom BI development. Generally speaking, the ones who settle for the more bare-bones solutions are SMBs who (erroneously in most cases) assume that they either can’t afford advanced features or don’t require them.
Organizations, especially larger ones, often have vast amounts of data. It can be everything from the history of sales to budgeting adjustments. Sifting through all of it is more often than not an arduous and time-consuming task. Not to mention there is no room for error when it comes to analytics. That’s why this type of software has emerged. It helps to reap all the benefits of BI with a low amount of effort required. It is the main job of almost all types of software after all: make the lives of people easier and streamline their operations.
However, even if you are a small or medius sized company you can still use BI. Our pizza chain automation case study is the proof of that. If your workflow includes such processes as measurements of KPIs (key performance indicators), identifying market trends, benchmarking different processes or any similar tasks, then BI will help.
On an individual level business intelligence systems don’t just help statisticians and data analysts. CXOs and managers of different levels, for example, can track the productivity of their subordinates and see the bottlenecks in need of elimination. In fact, any employee is able to find valuable information in BI. Everybody loves a good dashboard.
While it’s practically impossible to describe every single benefit you can potentially get from BI integration, here are several that are widely considered to be the most common:
Time and effort are valuable resources. There is no longer a need to waste them on menial tasks. Complex time-consuming reports, for example, can be filed with just a push of a few buttons. In fact, you can track performance with BI software as well.
By providing visual representations of various aspects of your business, it is easy to identify areas that need extra focus. Enhancing this awareness of areas for improvement across the entire company offers you opportunities for tangible growth.
Making tactical and especially strategic decisions is impossible without a full and clear picture of your business in mind. BI offers you exactly that regardless of how complex your processes might be.
BI systems streamline the data gathering process, which allows your employees to reallocate time to more pressing matters. The work is being done in the background.
You no longer need to be a professional analyst to get an accurate picture of your business and the trajectory of its development. You just open a dashboard and the relevant information is already there.
Collection, warehousing, organization, analysis, and visualization are all the things that you won’t need to worry about.
BI establishes a benchmark of best practices that you can use to shift your business in accordance with. Clear performance targets allow you to be one step ahead of your competitors in your industry. It also offers robust risk management features.
Your decisions are no longer based on assumptions. Business intelligence provides you only with objective statistics. While certainly, not all aspects of business can be rationally calculated, BI eliminates a huge amount of uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with running a business.
Surely, one would assume that there must be some drawbacks. Let’s look into them:
There are no two ways about it. Business intelligence software is quite expensive. Especially if you choose to develop a custom one. However, it is an investment that can result in massive profits down the line.
The perceived focus of enterprises rather than SMBs we have already covered in the previous section of the article. Many aspects of business stay the same regardless of the company size.
The complexity and difficulty in implementation also make potential users hesitate about investing in this software. Like with previous points, it is largely up to you and whether you consider the benefits substantial enough to overlook the initial hurdles. We are biased, of course, but we wouldn’t sleep on the transformative power of BI software. In fact, take a look at our own system that we have developed for internal use inside Digital Skynet.
The current development trajectory of this type of software allows us to confidently state that the future is bright. The main reason for this is artificial intelligence. You are probably already used to seeing it in headlines everywhere. Well, there is definitely a reason for that. BI particularly benefits from AI implementation. In turn, it makes the shift from descriptive to prescriptive approach happen. If there is one trend for the future of this technology, it’s that it will become only more operational in the future.
As we have discussed, business intelligence provides an analysis of current and historical data, based on which the predictive forecast is made by the system. When boosted by AI, the software can not only predict future development but also offer a course of action you should take that would guarantee positive results for your business. This practice is called prescriptive analytics. As the machine and deep learning become stronger they will only become more detailed and accurate.
It won’t be a surprise if such systems become more social as is the common trend of the last several years. A shift towards collaborative business intelligence is already noticeable, with features such as integration with social media already offered by some vendors of BI software.
Also, with technology such as edge computing eliminating latency, cloud BI services will be only more popular. These systems will also be more accessible since they don’t require as complex of an integration. Cloud-based solutions also bring the convenience of accessing your BI wherever there is an internet connection.
As you can see, business intelligence systems will become only more robust and relevant with many companies electing to develop custom ones to suit their practices.
So what is BI software? Business intelligence systems are a valuable tool that allows companies to make informed decisions based on objective data analytics. Regardless of size, it brings transformative power in the form of prescriptive analytics, smart dashboards, and data-driven decision making. This software is set to take advantage of innovations in AI and edge computing as well. With such a positive trajectory for future development, you can be sure that soon it will be hard to imagine a business without BI.