What Is Business Intelligence and Why Is It so Important?

Business intelligence, as a concept, emerged in the 1960s and was refined through the 1980s as a way to draw useful conclusions and insights from data. The advent of advanced computer technology, which continues to drive innovation, has shaped business intelligence into its current state.

Today, companies use business intelligence to measure performance, spot inefficiencies and predict outcomes. Once a fringe concept, business intelligence is now integral to nearly every large organization in the United States.

What Types of Business Intelligence Are There?

Over the past half-century, business intelligence has grown to include many commonly used analytics methods:

  • Data mining uses machine learning, statistics and database systems to discover patterns in large data sets.
  • Benchmarking refers to the practice of comparing performance metrics across an entire industry to determine where a certain company stands with regard to efficiency or some other performance standard.
  • Statistical analysis is a component of data analytics. The practice involves analyzing every data sample within a set of items. The goal of this process is to make sense of large sets of information.
  • Querying consists of requests for specific pieces of information drawn from a database. A query can be answered by a software program or data management professional.
  • Data preparation makes large data sets comprehensible. The organization of information into charts and graphs is a form of data preparation.
  • Descriptive analytics involves the interpretation of historical data with the goal of better understanding changes that have occurred at a business.

Common Software and Services That Offer Business Intelligence

Here are a few of the software companies that offer business intelligence solutions:

  • Microsoft
  • Qlik
  • Tableau
  • IBM
  • Oracle
  • SAS

Commonly used business intelligence tools include:

  • Information Builders
  • Sisense
  • Zoomdata
  • SAP Business Intelligence
  • MicroStrategy
  • Dundas BI
  • TIBCO Spotfire
  • Microsoft Power BI

Examples of Real-World Business Intelligence Applications

The popularity and proliferation of business intelligence software have made the advanced tools more user-friendly and accessible for staff who lack an IT background.

Business intelligence helps workers make sense of complex datasets. The resulting insights can lead to better decisions. A company that uses benchmarking to compare its performance against the competition can better understand its own competitive edge. Business intelligence can help an organization spot market trends early or predict potential downturns in sales. A savvy use of such predictions can result in significant revenue boosts or cost savings. Business intelligence has many human resource applications as well, including tools for predicting future hiring needs.

Other examples of how business intelligence can help businesses grow include:

  • Identifying areas with profit potential
  • Analyzing and predicting human behavior
  • Tracking company performance metrics
  • Comparing performance against other companies through benchmarking
  • Optimizing operations
  • Identifying inefficiencies
  • Predicting outcomes
  • Identifying market trends

The amount of information a company takes in or generates can increase dramatically from year to year. Business intelligence tools are uniquely equipped to help employees make sense of potentially overwhelming amounts of data. Businesses that adopt analytics tools will be better equipped to handle the growing influx of information.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s ​online Master of Business Administration with a Business Analytics Specialization offers a course on business intelligence. The seven-week course introduces the concepts and applications of business analytics that support data-driven decision-making in organizations.

All of SIUE’s online courses are taught by on-campus faculty. Students can complete the graduate degree in as few as 12 months.

Learn more about the SIUE online MBA program with a Business Analytics Specialization.


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Tableau: What Is Business Intelligence and Why Does It Matter?

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