Business intelligence describes an ongoing process that is deeply anchored in the corporate culture, with which relevant internal and external information is recorded, analyzed and processed with IT support.
The term describes a company-specific, IT-based overall approach that is based on the operational systems in a company and extends across all management levels (top, middle and lower management). This is not a temporary project, but an ongoing process that must be firmly anchored in the company and coordinated with other company processes.
Business intelligence has established itself on the market and is an integral part of IT and management terminology; however, there is no uniform definition. Rather, the term is interpreted and delimited differently. However, there are three common approaches to definition:
• Narrow BI understanding
This only includes information systems that analyze and process company data and thus support management in decision-making. Examples of this are the systems Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), Management Information Systems (MIS) and Executive Information Systems (EIS).
• Analysis-oriented BI understanding
This includes all tools that provide, evaluate and report relevant data. In addition to the systems mentioned above, this also includes solutions for data mining and text mining, ad-hoc reporting and other reporting programs.
• Broad understanding of BI
This includes all applications that are used directly and indirectly for decision-making. This includes not only data preparation and data storage, but also applications for their evaluation and presentation.
Essential features to consider when buying a BI solution
1) Open architecture
The type of architecture used to design the software is by far one of the most critical features in a Business Intelligence solution. Programs that use open source architecture and framework offer a higher level of integration with other platforms. In addition, they do not imply the usual restrictions linked to the use of proprietary tools, nor do they tie your IT department to a single supplier.
2) Breadth of supported databases
The current diversity of database types has become quite a challenge when it comes to implementing an IT solution. Certain alternatives are only compatible with a small number of databases or platforms, which can pose a serious problem to ensure integration into your internal systems, information management and future expansion of storage capacity. Consequently, a quality business intelligence solution must offer the widest possible compatibility with different databases.
3) Real-time data provision
The essence behind Business Intelligence is none other than improving decision-making, making them more reliable and faster. If such a solution is not capable of providing real-time data, the decisions that are made will be clearly limited and could even be contradictory.
4) Compatibility with data storage structures (Data-Warehouse) and Data-Mart
The volume and multiplicity of data is a logistical challenge, the solution of which is to gather all the information in the same place and format. Data storage structures or Data Warehouse make this solution possible. A Data-Mart is a special version of these storage systems, intended for a specific department.
These databases integrate and refine information from various sources to carry out a much more agile analysis with a variety of approaches. The compatibility of the Business Intelligence solution used in your business is essential if you want to make possible a large part of the functionalities that we are analyzing.
5) Self-service capabilities
Thanks to the “self-service capacity”, the end users of a certain Business Intelligence program have the necessary autonomy to generate their own reports, determine the analysis patterns and, ultimately, execute their own queries without the need for the IT staff assistance.
In the past, IT departments controlled the entire reporting process related to data mining and Business Intelligence. This could significantly delay access to information. SaaS solutions have meant the breakdown of that paradigm and have given managers and employees of each department greater freedom. The Business Intelligence software used in your organization must, therefore, include the self-service capacity.
Aims and tasks of business intelligence
Business intelligence is used to convert the data available in a company into information and to gain new knowledge about the status quo, the prospects and the business environment. Existing knowledge can be used to convert information faster and better into new knowledge. The newly generated knowledge, in turn, can support management with strategic issues.
Business intelligence accelerates and deepens the decision-making process and creates new possibilities in connection with the competitive positioning, risk control or also the cost analysis of a company. Business intelligence thus serves information management and can - if it is used and used correctly - develop as a competitive advantage over other market participants.
Business intelligence tasks in brief:
• Data collection
• Data integration
• Data storage
• Data preparation
• Information display
Sub-tasks of business intelligence
Since Business Intelligence is a strategic overall approach that is carried out separately from the operational business areas of a company, it cannot be divided into individual sub-areas - like the topic of accounting. Instead, it makes sense to shed light on the different tasks of business intelligence.
In this context, two main approaches to business intelligence can be distinguished:
• Enterprise BI
This is a standard system landscape based on the data from the data warehouse or IT. The users bring a specific question to the IT department, which then uses the data to carry out an analysis. Enterprise BI should therefore be viewed more statically and provides reports that are then made available to a certain number of users in the company.
• Self-service BI
Self-service BI has been gaining in importance since 2010. It describes the provision of an IT environment in which users can act independently. This includes the possibility of performing analyzes, creating reports and integrating user-specific data, largely independently of the IT department.
Such a self-service BI solution
is particularly useful in areas of activity in which decisions often have to be made in a short period of time. For the IT department, this reduces the workload for operational analyzes, but more time has to be invested in ensuring performance, access rights, data backup and finding a common vocabulary.
In the meantime, these approaches are also mixed, so that central data from the data warehouse can also be combined with user-specific data. Depending on the company, one also speaks of the maturity level of the BI process, whereby the independent analysis of data by the end user is higher than the static reporting.
Business intelligence has established itself as an integrate part of business process. Its advantages are not limited to improving the data quality or employee satisfaction. It also helps with better business decision making.