How to Use BI to Become More Efficient
Business intelligence, or BI for short, can best be understood as a software-based toolkit for analyzing raw data sets.
Companies today can generate massive amounts of raw data, or “big data,” but this data only becomes useful when analyzed through the right set of software tools. In this article, learn how your company can use BI tools to improve on efficiency.
Common BI Software Tools
Extracting useful data from your company’s raw data sets depends entirely on selecting the right suite of software tools. Currently, some of the most popular BI software tools include these:
– Data mining. Just as old school miners searched tons of rock for that small glint of gold, so too does data mining software sift through vast amounts of raw data for certain key insights.
– Spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are useful tools for logging data mining summaries and making comparisons across time, departments and sales periods.
– Databases. Databases today are sophisticated software programs that can run specific queries, reports and summaries on stored data sets.
– Data warehousing. A data warehouse can be thought of as a type of proprietary company supercomputer software in which key BI assets can be securely stored and accessed.
– Online analytical processing (OLAP). OLAP software tools offer another method of analyzing stored data sets.
– Digital dashboards. This type of software offers different access levels to permit staff across the company access to relevant data sets and summaries.
– Process visualization tools. This type of software puts complex analytics into visual form for easy explanation and sharing.
Self-Service BI Software Solutions
Today’s global e-commerce marketplace moves too rapidly and changes too continually for companies to rely on old-fashioned data reporting solutions. Self service BI gives companies the chance to analyze and use data in near real-time situations, i.e. “on demand.”
Two of the main self service BI benefits include:
– The option for staff in different departments to designing their own in-house analysis algorithms and summary reports without the need to have any special information technology (IT) training or expertise.
– The opportunity to set the company’s own unifying metrics and queries to govern how raw data can be used (this prevents distortion of summaries).
A Word About Business Intelligence Versus Business Analytics
In many corporate circles, the terms business analytics and business intelligence are used fairly interchangeably. While each term has a different fundamental meaning, they are designed to be highly complementary when used together.
In short, business analytics refers to the methodology being used to analyze raw data. Business intelligence refers to the software tools used to perform that analysis.
In the past (in pre-software days) business intelligence had to be performed by hand. This greatly limited how much and what types of raw data could be analyzed, combined and used to streamline efficiency and increase revenue.
Today, with an ever-growing assortment of sophisticated software tools that can perform business intelligence functions faster, more accurately and in many more permutations, businesses are able to achieve near daily analysis of operations and make adjustments as needed to streamline costs and boost profits.
For example, let’s say the sales department sets a series of goals and designs a sales campaign to achieve those goals. They then outline the methodology they plan to use to measure progress towards those goals and set timeline benchmarks for when this interim analysis should be done.
From here, the data can be run through business intelligence software as often as on a daily basis to determine whether progress towards longer-term sales goals is on target and make adjustments as needed.
Overcoming Obstacles to Efficiency
In many ways, debating the various merits of business intelligence versus business analytics is like arguing which came first – the egg or the chicken. Both tools are immeasurably valuable and necessary to competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.
Rather than debating the value of one tool versus another, companies serve their own interests and those of their customers best when they use the two tools together as they were designed to be used.
By taking the time to design useful business analytics methods that can be standardized and shared company wide and adopting a set of universal business intelligence software tools with which to analyze raw data, a company ensures all departments are kept apprised of the company’s competitive position in the marketplace and are well-positioned to excel.
Kalyan Banga200 Posts
I am Kalyan Banga, a Post Graduate in Business Analytics from Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, a premier management institute, ranked best B-School in Asia in FT Masters management global rankings. I have spent 6 years in field of Analytics.