Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence (BI)

Quick definition

Business intelligence (BI) is a subdiscipline of data analytics that involves gathering data and presenting in a visual report to help inform business decisions.

Key takeaways

● Both gathering the data and reporting on the data usually involve a specific BI tool.

● Many people believe that BI is just the front-end process — the data analysis — but it’s important to consider the data gathering and sifting aspect when thinking about BI.

● The biggest drawback with BI reporting is that it requires making data queries, or asking the raw data questions, and the time it takes for a BI tool to answer those questions ranges from two days to two months.

● Adobe is combatting the slowness of business intelligence software by implementing something called self-service BI, which isn’t necessarily 100% accurate, but is faster and still reliable. Other companies will probably start to follow suit.

● To make sure BI stays on the right track, it’s important to select a team of data analysts to be in charge of business data governance.

Nate Smith is a group manager of product marketing for Adobe Analytics Cloud. He oversees strategy development, product launches, positioning and messaging, pricing and packaging, sales enablement, product requirements, and competitive analysis for several Adobe products. Nate has been with Adobe for almost 11 years, and before his time at Adobe, he had six years of experience as a marketing strategist.

What is really meant by “business intelligence?”

What do organizations use business intelligence for?

How does business intelligence evolve, and how does that affect a business?

Why is good data governance important, even at the start of a business?

Can I hire an outside agency to manage my company’s data?

How does business intelligence help improve a company’s efficiency and decision-making?

What will business intelligence look like in the future?

Q: What is really meant by “business intelligence?”

A: The term business intelligence is an umbrella term for two different parts of a process. First, you have the gathering of useful data into a data warehouse or repository, typically by data science professionals on the IT side of the house who are doing things to capture and transform that data for use. Second comes data visualization through BI software or services, such as those seen in the Gartner Magic Quadrants or Forrester Waves.

When people think of business intelligence, they usually only think about the front-end component, or the data visualization. But it’s also important to remember the back end, the data sifting and gathering, because business intelligence is not only about data visualization tools.

The best way to describe business intelligence is that it’s descriptive reporting, but it’s also gathering the data to create that descriptive report.

Q: What do organizations use business intelligence for?

A: Companies use business intelligence solutions to understand how to improve their decision-making based on the reporting and the visuals they’re seeing. The goal of BI is to improve business operations through the use of data. Business intelligence can help improve anything from strategy to execution.

For example, let’s say that your company comes out with three new products. You assign quotas and performance metrics to salespeople, customer success managers, and whoever else to help sell the new products. A great use of business intelligence tools would be to delve into financial data sources each quarter, visualize the data into a report, and then use that report to determine what is and isn’t working. The best part of BI software is the ability to view lots of different types of historical data in a single environment, to make better, more informed business decisions.

Q: How does business intelligence evolve, and how does that affect a business?

A: As a business’s big data evolves, its business intelligence will evolve as well. With business intelligence, you can have many different data channels in one storage place: financial data, supply chain data, and even HR data. And while you might not have all of your data channels together at the same time, you can add new ones. Each one of those new data sets will give you new insights about your company as it’s combined with the other sets. These are insights that you wouldn’t gain if you were looking at each data set separately, and they only serve to improve your business’s efficiency.

Q: Why is good data governance important, even at the start of a business?

A: Lots of new businesses don’t think to set up their data analytics and business intelligence, because they want to focus on sales and other seemingly more important parts of a business. But a huge part of business intelligence is having good data governance to make sure data is used and managed correctly.

A key issue that arises with modern business intelligence is the slow pace of receiving answers to data queries. A business intelligence tool could take anywhere from two days to two months to answer a query about stored data. To counter this, we’ve seen the rise of something called self-service BI, a system where you can get answers faster, but the data is not always 100% correct. This system is not necessarily bad, because the answers can still be fairly accurate, but without good data governance, your company could have several different people making conclusions about company data, and these conclusions might clash.

Q: Can I hire an outside agency to manage my company’s data?

A: Because of the breadth, scope, and confidential nature of your company data, it wouldn’t be wise to employ a third-party team to manage your data. Besides security purposes, the reason an in-house team is better is because every business is going to have different processes, different goals, and different needs. Coming up with a data governance plan tailored to your company is much easier with an internal team. This doesn’t have to be the team’s sole responsibility, if that doesn’t work for your company, but it should be one of the roles for a group in your organization.

Q: How does business intelligence help improve a company’s efficiency and decision-making?

A: The comprehensiveness, scope, and reach of business intelligence across an entire business is great for decision-making, because it helps you understand what has happened in your business using several different data channels. Understanding the key goings-on in your company helps you to rethink the strategies established in your business.

Better decision-making goes hand-in-hand with efficiency, because the more efficient you can be, the better and faster you can be at making data-driven decisions. Business intelligence helps you extract better insights to be more efficient, especially if you’re using a tool like Adobe Analytics with Customer Journey Analytics. Other BI tools are much slower and do less, compared with Adobe Analytics. Being able to immediately pivot and use BI or augmented analysis to answer the questions you need to answer in real time is critical.

Q: What will business intelligence look like in the future?

A: Business intelligence has already evolved quite a bit and is continuing to evolve. A lot of companies are starting to dip their toes into self-service BI, which has now become modern BI. Adobe has been at the forefront of self-service BI implementation, using self-service BI in journey analytics solutions.

Besides self-service BI, it’s anticipated that BI will combine with artificial intelligence, so that you can have a full spectrum of reporting, with descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive types of solutions.

The interactive nature of self-serve BI is really critical. This means, going forward, that the lines between BI and augmented analytics are also going to blur even more. Adobe has already made considerable leaps in this direction, but this will probably be the standard for the future: the ability to do things like interactively pivot, ask new questions, run analytics, visualizations, path analysis, and flow analysis on omni-channel data. You’ll be able to look at the entire customer experience in relation to your business performance in real time and ask the questions that you need to in order to know what’s working and what needs improvement.

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