What is Business intelligence? Why is everyone talking about it?

What is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence, put very simply, is the set of tools, technologies and processes that help business make intelligence decisions. Now what’s at the core of intelligence? Knowledge. Information. Data.

Let me substantiate this with an example –

3 months ago, a CPG brand launched a new product – bottled fresh vegetable juice in the market. The product was doing great, but it was impacting the sales of other SKU of the same brand. It took the company 3 months to realise that the timing of promotions was not favourable for both the SKUs. Pushing one product cannibalised the sales of other SKU in the same geography. The delay in this realisation was due to the delay in availability of relevant data.

Any problem or challenge remains problem and challenge in absence of relevant information. Business intelligence serves to that aspect of organizational needs – data and information. It employs tools and technologies to gather, store, analyze and report information to the end users.

Business intelligence gives answers to the ‘what’s of the situation. What happened? – What happened in the past, and what’s happening in the present and enables the user to find patterns and take informed decisions. That’s why it’s also known as descriptive analytics – describing the situation in consideration. In the past few years, BI has evolved multi-folds to provide assistance in many aspects of information analysis and information sharing, including data mining, statistical analysis, visual analysis, natural language querying etc.

Organizations generate copious amount of data every day. But much of the data is either lost or gets redundant by the time it’s put to use.  Business intelligence and analytics platforms make sure that the data is processed and made available to the end-user in real-time, thus maximizing the potential value of data.

Business analytics support and further strengthen business intelligence by helping businesses make future predictions and identify potential future strategies for growth.

Why are we talking about it now?

Because times are changing much more rapidly than anyone had anticipated. The pandemic has necessitated the need for strategic technological initiatives for all businesses looking for sustenance and growth. Companies must become data driven to be able to leverage any opportunity and deal with uncertainty and unexpected disruptive changes.

According to Gartner – “As data becomes increasingly complex and digital business accelerates, data fabric is the architecture that will support composable data and analytics and its various components.”

Organizations, small, medium or large, must reflect on their data management and data analytics journey and take progressive decisions responding to the current circumstances. Many future facing organizations are investing in CDOs and CIOs responsible with making smart business intelligence and analytics platforms decisions.

Current challenges that business intelligence and analytics platforms address –

Challenge #1 – Isolation leading to functional silos. Modern, new age self-serving business intelligence and data analytics platforms facilitate data democratization in the organization. Thus, eliminating the scope of functional silos altogether. Business intelligence enables fluidity in data sharing mechanisms of different teams in the same organization.

Challenge #2 – Remote working set-ups posing threat to a collaborative culture. For centuries, organizations have depended on face-to-face interactions to ensure easy collaboration. The pandemic completely overturned the situation and compelled teams to adopt remote work culture. This sudden orbital shift has been tough. But business intelligence and analytics platforms are a boon to remote work set-up. By unifying data sources and allowing real-time access and understanding of information and insights, these tools further strengthen the corporate culture.

Challenge #3 – Need for regular communication and multiple interactions leading to wastage of time and resources. By making business intelligence the primary focus, businesses can maximize value of time for each individual in the team. Imagine calling 5 different people to get an insight or waiting for hours and days before getting relevant data. Much time is spent on meetings, and data collection before and after the meetings.

Successful BI adoption enables teams and individuals to spend less time on data collection and more on strategic thinking and actions.

Business organizations have now come to believe that the business intelligence and analytics tools not only can handle data but could also help in reshaping the infrastructure of human resources by increasing productivity rate of employees at an individual level. The need to supervise the workforce has been replaced by the need to empower every employee to leverage data for growth.

Business Intelligence and analytics tools help business organizations in strategizing their operations according to the trends of the market. Aiding the business organizations in taking decisions according to the real-time insights is one of the many functions of analytics tools. Data is present everywhere in overwhelming amounts. But to extract useful information and be able to use it to drive critical decisions, is the need of the hour. This need is fulfilled with the help of business intelligence and analytics tools.