What is Business Intelligence? Most common BI solutions
Who has not heard of Business Intelligence (BI)? Businesses are incorporating it as a solution to problems that arise with digital transformation within the organization. As it is necessary to be aware of the development of technology, we explain what Business Intelligence is.
What is Business Intelligence or BI?
Business Intelligence (BI), is the set of processes required to offer a software solution that allows us to analyze how our company is working. This knowledge will make us optimize said operation by making relevant decisions.
Within the world of BI, there are multiple possible solutions. As each company has its own casuistry, a completely valid solution for some companies may not be so for others.
We can help ourselves from the automotive sector to set an example. While for one company the perfect solution will be a city car, for another it will be a 4 × 4, a minivan, a truck, etc., there will even be one that will need a complete fleet of vehicles.
Within BI solutions there are different options. By relying on rapidly developing technologies, these solutions cover new areas and improve others. So those that were included first will give way to others that will emerge over time.
In any case, the most common solutions (all together or just some of them) are those based on the creation of both predefined and customized reports, together with their automated distribution ( reporting or corporate reporting ).
Some solutions would be:
- The forecast results ( forecasting )
- The query tools for advanced users ( query ) include access to multidimensional cubes ( OLAP )
- The dashboards ( dashboards or scorecards )
- The special data stores ( data warehouse or datamarts ).
BI solutions are in a process of transformation. Encompass from the systems used for measuring corporate data and related to those who also support analysis, forecasting, and data discovery capabilities (reports Data Discovery ). In this way, we can see that Business Intelligence relies heavily on Big Data for data analysis and development.
Let’s take an example to see how these technologies are used; This example is that of a large company where all these functionalities are required, so it will help us to understand where each of them fits in our companies. Let’s imagine a business that has different software programs in use: an ERP, a program specially developed to control its production systems, a CRM, etc.
Although it is not always necessary to cross the data of one system with all the others, it is done to some extent. This implies that it must be done externally. For example in spreadsheets, advanced users collect data from different systems and cross them.
It is a very error-prone system, apart from being expensive (it always needs available personnel), and slow (this personnel must prepare the type of information required in each case). BI solutions allow you to prepare it in advance: there are solutions of different types (for example, those based on metadata), but the best known are those of special data warehouses.
These allow these data to be available having previously processed them to correct and/or rule out errors (shocking errors such as dates from other centuries, misspelled geographic areas, etc. are common). In addition to storing them with the previous groupings that are required (temporary, geographical, by type of business, others), so that later any report, scorecard, etc., that needs them, will be much more efficient.
These special data stores have a lot more cool functionality. However, for some specific cases, they may not be the perfect solution (this post does not pretend to be a treatise in this regard): as always, it will depend on each case, and for this, there are specialists in these technologies.
The use of the data depends on the department
Once we have these data prepared and crossed, there will be users who will only need the development of a part of them.
For example, predefined reports with a certain cadence will be useful for salespeople visits every week. Others, such as sales managers, will require aggregated data on product sales by vendors and geographic areas. In addition to data for the correct monitoring of budgets and sales forecasts.
Managers or those responsible for objectives will need dashboards to follow the evolution of the key indicators of the company. In the hospital sector, they will be used to measure the use of beds or visits per patient. Others will need to be able to cross data to provide insight and discover patterns that modify or create new ways of working. The example of beers and diapers is famous: since having small children you cannot go out as much, you tend to consume more at home, so they were close to each other.
The advantages of Business Intelligence solutions
But… why are BI solutions required? What do they contribute and how do they help us? From the company, years ago the focus was on having management programs that would improve the day-to-day. These programs are called ERP ( Enterprise Resource Planning ).
It must be borne in mind that there are very diverse ones with more or fewer functionalities. They allow us to control everything from aspects such as delivery notes, orders, invoices, clients, products, manufacturing, accounting, and sales, to payroll.
There are also other programs such as CRM ( Customer Relationship Management ) to control sales activities. With the use of all these IT solutions, a lot of data is stored that used to be wasted but can be used. ERPs or CRMs usually have a series of predefined reports to provide us with information about part of them (sales reports, for example). The good news is that they offer more and more options than those contemplated in the BI world.
In any case, they are not usually very complete and they are also assembled according to the data they include. If in our company we use different computer programs, they will only be valid for your data, so it will not be possible to have a joint vision. Furthermore, the structure in which they reside is not optimal for their exploitation. That is where Business Intelligence solutions come in, to solve all these shortcomings and limitations.
Business Intelligence success stories
Toyota Motor Corporation
The Toyota Motor Company is not the first time that it has been at the forefront of innovation in the global business sector. We highlight it because the automaker incorporated information management software that allowed it to reduce production costs, obtaining a greater number of customers.
Another example of an engine company that uses BI is Bridgestone Firestone, which uses information management software for the distribution of its products and for the logistics of receiving and purchasing raw materials exported from different parts of the world.
Also supermarket chains such as Wal-Mart or restaurants such as Wendy’s and Ruby Tuesday and Friday’s use Business Intelligence to make decisions based on the data provided by customers, being able to maintain loyalty and maximize their sales.
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