Business Intelligence (BI) is a set of tools and practices that enable organizations to extract information (intelligence) from their data in order to properly manage their activities.
“What were our sales last month? How are our customers behaving on our website? How profitable are we on each of our sales?” These are just a few of the many fundamental questions that Business Intelligence can help answer.
The amount of information produced today is growing at an exponential rate. All this data is full of information waiting to be exploited. In the era of digital transformation, this creates both opportunities and challenges for Business Intelligence.
The Benefits of Business Intelligence
Organizations that successfully implement a BI strategy have a clear competitive advantage over their competitors who do not. They can understand their day-to-day activities and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Among other things, Business Intelligence helps managers to steer a company’s activities and make informed decisions. For example, it enables managers to decide which product should be developed next; or conversely, it can also enable an entire product line to be abandoned altogether because of low sales or low margins.
Moreover, BI and the integration of web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, enable marketers to have a complete view of what’s happening on their websites.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the numerous benefits of Business Intelligence for organizations:
- Better decision-making
- Business process optimization
- Cost reduction
- Improving overall organizational performance
- Risk detection
- Improving customer satisfaction
The Winning Formula for Implementing a Business Intelligence Strategy
Implementing a Business Intelligence strategy can seem daunting at first glance. Moreover, the fact that there is no standard sequence of steps in the marketplace makes the task even more tedious. However, following these steps can make it easier:
1. Defining Objectives
You need to be able to clearly express the objectives you’re aiming for by implementing a BI strategy. These objectives don’t need to be materialized in the form of visuals, reports, or dashboards. They do, however, need to be clearly expressed in the form of concrete action.
For example: we’d like to know which of our products are underperforming, so that we can increase our marketing efforts. Don’t worry if you can’t express these needs clearly: a BI expert can help you understand your issues and guide you in defining them.
2. Identifying Data Sources
Next, you need to identify where your data is stored, what systems are producing it, in which format, and so on. This step is all the more important because you need to find the sources that contain the information you need to meet your objectives. They may come in various forms (CRM, ERP, Excel, social medias, etc.) and be located in different places (internal, external).
3. Data Collection and Storage
The next step is to collect and store your data in suitable systems. Note, however, that in some cases you can skip this step.
Example: you can run your analyses and reports directly on system databases (CRM, ERP, Excel, etc.). The disadvantage of this approach is that you’ll have both your day-to-day activities and your analyses calling on the same data source, which can cause slowdowns. The best approach is therefore to extract the data and store it in a different location to segregate uses.
4. Data Processing and Analysis
This step is probably the most important. Rarely is raw data automatically ready for analysis. Raw data, by definition, is not suitable for analysis: it’s either “dirty”, in the wrong format, or both. It must therefore be analyzed, cleaned, and properly prepared.
Business Intelligence also relies on OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) modeling, which combines various data sources into a single model.
Next comes the most interesting step: data visualization. The results of processing and analysis are presented in a more visually appealing format. This can take the form of reports or dashboards, to make it easier to understand the information contained in the data.
6. Implementation of Actions
Finally, all that’s left to do is to implement your strategy, based on the information (trends, results, etc.) you gather from your visual dashboards. You can also use planning and tracking tools to monitor results and adjust actions if necessary.
Leading Business Intelligence Software
There are many tools to do Business Intelligence depending on the task you want to perform. The choice of tools will depend on several criteria (e.g., budget). Some tools even can even be an all-in-one, such as Excel in which, you can store your data, clean it, as well as create visualizations.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that these types of tools are generally limited in terms of functionality and are generally good enough to do everything, but not great at any specific task either.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of known BI tools according to the different tasks you want to perform:
- Storage: we will prefer databases that offer the best reading speed. Most of the time, we will use SQL databases like SQL Server, MySQL, etc.
- Visualization tools: several tools to visualize data exist on the market. The most popular are Power BI and Tableau. Other alternatives also exist such as Qlikview, Looker Studio, IBM Cognos Analytics, etc.
- Cloud: the shift to cloud computing by many companies has brought about a major paradigm change in the world of BI. Providers (Azure, AWS and GCP) are increasingly offering turnkey solutions to execute your Business Intelligence strategy.
- ETL (Extract, Transform, Load): this is the process by which data is collected, processed, and then transferred to databases. The advantage of these types of tools is that we can carry out all our analyses and transformations in one place, while incorporating automation. Here are a few examples: Talend, Microsoft SSIS, Azure Synapse Analytics, Databricks.
Business Intelligence has become a key success factor for modern companies. Its implementation, though simple in terms of the sequence of tasks, requires careful planning to ensure success. It is based on three key elements: data collection, analysis, and informed decision-making.
In an increasingly competitive environment where shifting to digital is becoming a necessity, implementing a successful Business Intelligence strategy gives companies an undeniable competitive edge. At Uzinakod, our experts can support you in any BI project. Contact us today!