Business Intelligence Software

Business intelligence (BI) refers to technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information and sometimes to the information itself. The purpose of business intelligence--a term that dates at least to 1958--is to support better business decision making. Thus, BI is also described as a decision support system (DSS). BI is sometimes used interchangeably with briefing books, report and query tools and executive information systems. In general, business intelligence systems are data-driven DSS.

BI systems provide historical, current, and predictive views of business operations, most often using data that has been gathered into a data warehouse or a data mart and occasionally working from operational data. Software elements support the use of this information by assisting in the extraction, analysis, and reporting of information. Applications tackle sales, production, financial, and many other sources of business data for purposes that include, notably, business performance management. Information may be gathered on comparable companies to produce benchmarks.

Key intelligence topics

Business intelligence often uses key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess the present state of business and to prescribe a course of action. Examples of KPIs are things such as lead conversion rate (in sales) and inventory turnover (in inventory management). Prior to the widespread adoption of computer and web applications, when information had to be manually input and calculated, performance data was often not available for weeks or months. Recently, banks have tried to make data available at shorter intervals and have reduced delays. The KPI methodology was further expanded with the Chief Performance Officer methodology which incorporated KPIs and root cause analysis into a single methodology.

Businesses that face higher operational/credit risk loading, such as credit card companies and "wealth management" services, often make KPI-related data available weekly. In some cases, companies may even offer a daily analysis of data. This fast pace requires analysts to use IT systems to process this large volume of data.

Types of business intelligence tools

The key general categories of business intelligence tools are:

Spreadsheets
Reporting and querying software - are tools that extract, sort, summarize, and present selected data
OLAP
Digital Dashboards
Data mining
Process mining
Business performance management

Except for spreadsheets, these tools are sold as standalone tools, suites of tools, components of ERP systems, or as components of software targeted to a specific industry. The tools are sometimes packaged into data warehouse appliances.

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