Business Intelligence

In this article we look at ‘business intelligence’, how it can be obtained, and why it’s important.

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence refers to how a company/organisation can use its historical data to improving strategic decision-making and thereby provide a (hopefully sustainable) competitive advantage.

What Data?

In day-to-day operations, businesses and organisations generate, receive, gather, and store large amounts of (sometimes complex) structured and unstructured data from internal systems and external sources.  The more complex data is often referred to as ‘big data’. The kind of historical data that businesses/organisations collect and refine for their business intelligence could, for example, include e-mails, memos and notes, news, user groups, chats, reports, web pages, software reports and stats + analytics, image and video files, marketing material, presentations and more.

Analysis & Processes

The idea of business intelligence is to be able to analyse and gain meaningful value from much of this data. Types of analysis of data can be descriptive, diagnostic, predictive or prescriptive. The analysis can uncover trends in large datasets and reveal important insights that a business can use to its advantage.

Analysing company data can involve processes such as data preparation, data mining (of databases), stats and machine learning, statistical analysis, performance metrics and benchmarking, data visualisation (turning data into charts/graphs), and reporting the findings of the analysis and the conclusions with decision makers and other stakeholders.


Processing and interpreting large amounts of different types of data to get a bigger picture and reveal opportunities is challenging, and usually requires the use of business intelligence software/tools. Popular examples include:

  • Microsoft Power BI, a desktop app for Windows that draws upon automated, cloud-based technology.
  • Board International, which combines predictive analytics and performance management. 
  • Domo, a cloud-based platform that offers business intelligence tools tailored to different industries.
  • Dundas BI, can be tailored for 19 industries, creates dashboards and scorecards, and performs reporting (standard and ad-hoc).
  • MicroStrategy, can also be tailored for a broad range of industries and offer cloud, on-premises, or hybrid deployment.


Business intelligence software/tools can benefit a business by:

  • Revealing valuable market trends and business insights as well as flagging up areas for improvement.
  • The ability to aggregate different data sources to gain a much fuller picture of what is happening within the business.
  • Increasing customer satisfaction by enabling a better understanding of customer behaviour and patterns. This, in turn, can lead to more successful marketing, increased ROI, better customer loyalty and increased profits.
  • Improving operational efficiency.
  • Enabling better, more informed decisions to be made, thereby improving the business strategy, improving competitiveness, and helping to avoid costly errors.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Businesses generate, gather, and store large amounts of data. Rather than being a cost, challenge, and/or risk to the business, finding a way to draw together, analyse, interrogate, and present the data as useful information can add value by identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It can also give managers a much clearer, all-round view of the business which can lead to better and smarter decision making. This can reduce risk and make business more efficient and competitive.

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