Business intelligence software is an analytical tool used by organizations to analyze raw data obtained through operations, consumer interactions, and more. The tool comprises complex variegated modules and systems that help in the collection and analysis of data. The software has customized reports that help a business recognize future potential and provides insights into all ongoing operations. With the help of business intelligence software, companies can gain a deeper insight into sales and marketing, improve decision making, cut down unnecessary costs and increase their productivity. The software’s utility does not stop there; it streamlines the business processes, with the use of a central database. A BI software provides tracking and reporting on a real-time basis. This further helps in decision making based on empirical data.
The need of Business Intelligence Software
With the exponential growth in the amount of data generated and stored by companies, the need for an effective and efficient solution becomes paramount. Data needs to be securely stored and circulated to the right people to enable good decision making. As discussed earlier, data without proper interpretation is useless; a BI solution helps a company to properly interpret data. The software also secures the data through high-level encryption to protect it against data thieves and hackers.
In an ideal scenario, valuable data related to the company’s activities are stored in massive spreadsheets or servers. This data with the help of best business intelligence solutions provide the manager with information related to consumer behavior, sales pattern, and resource allocation. The accumulated data can be used to predict a company’s growth for the next financial year.
The traditional methods of gathering data such as interviews, questionnaires and surveys, observations, focus groups, ethnographies, and more were time-consuming and strenuous. That posed the need for best BI solutions to automate and streamline the process of identification, accumulation, and analysis of data. The implementation of business intelligence software is on the rise as an increasing number of companies are adopting the solution to expedite growth and have a clearer insight into the financial position of the company.
Benefits of Business Intelligence Software
Over the past decade, a growing demand for business intelligence software has been observed. This is mainly because of the huge amount of data continuously being accumulated and the need to process it to obtain key business information. Some of the benefits that a business intelligence software provides to a company or an organization are as follows:
- Actionable intelligence: The key to the fame of best business intelligence solutions in today’s business is its ability to provide actionable intelligence. Actionable intelligence is information that can be acted upon with business intelligence software. Business intelligence software provides a company or organization with the ability to better target the market and excel over the competition.
- Information integration: In traditional business operations, data comes from everywhere and they often get trapped in different silos. The best business intelligence solution help eliminate this hurdle by integrating data coming from all operations and storing it in one centralized system. The best business intelligence solution helps in better forecasting potential opportunities or risk in the future.
- Quicker response: Due to evolution in business intelligence software which earlier needed specialists to extract meaningful data to today’s best business intelligence solutions which are highly advanced and can be operated by a person with limited IT skills. The business intelligence software can be accessed from multiple locations providing the different departments with real-time access to data.
- Sales personalization: In today’s digital economy, the contribution of best business intelligence solutions to the overall success of businesses cannot be denied. The best business intelligence solutions with the help of customer data helps in the delivery of personalized products.
- Real-time decision making: As discussed earlier, BI software helps centralize all data, providing managers with a holistic view. A centralized database can be accessed from anywhere by using business intelligence software at any time enabling real-time decision making based on concrete facts.
- Data visualization: Business operation reports can be difficult to understand hampering an organization’s ability to act on key information. One of the most important benefits of business intelligence software is its ability to effectively visualize data. Best business intelligence software solutions provide intuitive data visualization capabilities help in easy understanding and interpretation of data.
Things to Look for in a Business Intelligence Software
Today, the software market is swarming with vendors selling different types of business intelligence software. It creates some difficulties for the buyer like which product to choose, what features should be there in a BI software for their industry, etc. These are some of the things to look for in business intelligence software.
- Ease of use and implementation: Traditional business intelligence solutions have always lagged behind when it comes to intuitive design; but, the new and modern business intelligence software are as easy to use as a smart phone. The earlier versions of business intelligence software required a lengthy system implementation process, this was eliminated with the advent of modern SaaS solutions. Therefore, one of the most essential things to look for in the best business intelligence solution is the ease of usage and implementation.
- Industry specific: It does not make sense for an automobile company to use the best business intelligence solution that is designed for an education business or vice-versa. Every industry is different in their operations and data. Domain expertise in business intelligence software allows a company to analyze data according to the particular business type. It takes note of key operations that may not be there in other industries.
- Unified data sources: If the data is obtained from different sources its analysis becomes difficult. The biggest hurdle that a business encounters with data accumulation is recognizing the right data to be collected. The best business intelligence solution helps resolve these issues and also provides insight from disparate database in the dashboard. The best business intelligence solution must analyze all data generated by a business.
- Real-time: Traditional software tools are highly unreliable as they fail to provide information at the right time when it’s most needed. Best business intelligence solutions are capable of providing comprehensive reports in real-time that can help a manager make quick decisions.
- Cross functional: A business intelligence software should be accessible by all the departments of the organization. Management, finance, IT, operations, and others should be able to gain insights from the data. While purchasing the best business intelligence solution, be sure to choose a software that supports multiple users and control.
- Self-service: Older business intelligence software solutions had the CEO and other top executives relying on others for information. Self-service is a new trend that’s emerging in business intelligence. It means that executives can obtain the answer they require without the assistance of anyone else. New user interfaces of business intelligence software are making the use of software intuitive and easy.
- Affordable: The best business intelligence solution must be within the budget of the organization. Traditionally, only big organizations used these types of software mainly because it was too expensive for small organizations to afford. Over the past decade, there has been a growing number of business intelligence software companies that are designing affordable SaaS based solutions for small organizations. With the emergence of cloud-based applications, the best business intelligence solutions have become affordable for small organizations.
Must-have Features of a Business Intelligence Software
Organizations have different motives towards implementing the best business intelligence solution. Whatever the motive, a BI software is essential for a business in this era of data supremacy. Following are some features that are essential for a modern business intelligence software.
- Executive dashboard: A personalized dashboard of business intelligence software provides easily readable and relevant information to the executives in real-time. This enables faster and effective decisions based on empirical data. The managers or executives require access to personal dashboards so that the employees KPIs can be delivered on a regular basis. A personalized dashboard means that the manager can make decisions instantly due to readily available information.
- Location intelligence: It is the ability of the best business intelligence solution to map and visualize data in geographical formats. This allows a business to view data from a new perspective, such as the sales of a product per region, identify locations where the sales have decreased and vice versa.
- “What if” analysis: This feature of a business intelligence software allows the business to assess the probable outcome of a decision even before it is executed. With the help of the accumulated data, an executive can formulate a strategy to attain the goals of the business. This feature is crucial in strategic planning.
- Interactive reports: These reports by business intelligence software help convert data into information. They make data interpretation easy. The user should be able to conduct slice and dice OLAP analysis, use moving average and regression to identify data trends, time-series zooming to understand anomalies, etc.
- Meta data layer: It makes the process of reporting less cumbersome as it eliminates the requirement of coding and SQL. This enables business executives to access information in a more comprehensible business language.
- Ranking reports: As the name suggests, this feature of business intelligence software helps categorize things in order. A businessman or executive can create a list of top 10 most selling products, products that are least performing, etc. with the assistance of the software.
Industry Specific Use of Business Intelligence Software
Different industries have different use for a business intelligence software. Following are some industries that use business intelligence software to collect and analyze data.
- Oil industry: The oil industry has several uses for a business intelligence solution. The price of petroleum at the gas station is determined by per barrel price of the crude oil. An oil company does not have control over the price of crude oil, but it can moderate its cost and increase its profit by paying less in marketing, distribution, and oil refining. A business intelligence software helps an oil company increase its profit and reduce cost. How does BI help an oil company in marketing. The per barrel price of gas changes frequently within a day. It is essential that the marketing department keeps track of the price in real-time. A BI software helps an oil company do that among numerous other things.
- Retail industry: One of the major issues with a retail business is inventory theft. Also known as “shrinkage” – the term inventory shrinkage means that a product gets lost between the time of order and POS (point of sale). Business intelligence solutions help the business owner by not just tracking the inventory lost, but also the retail stores which experience most shrinkage. The software also provides information as to which specific product disappears most. With the help of this information the store owner can take necessary preventive steps to curtail shrinkage.
- Apparel industry: The biggest worry point for an apparel business is to track the continuously changing trend in the apparel business. For a business of this sort, it is essential that all things run smoothly without any glitches. The companies can rely on business intelligence software and data visualization tools to save time during a trend transition. With the help of the BI tool, company can analyze competitors, develop crucial questions, etc.
A business intelligence software is the need of the hour. Most businesses, weather big or small are relying on this software to stay ahead of competition and offer better quality products to consumers. Business intelligence software tools are continuously changing, becoming better with perpetual introduction of new more advanced features. With this, we can hope that the Business Intelligence software of the future will be exceptional and provide a new dimension to business.