What Exactly is Business Intelligence?

July 15, 2016 Appirio

By Chetan Tanwar


Business Intelligence (BI) is the set of techniques and tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information to be used for business analysis and growth. BI can help organizations answer some important business questions, like:

  • Who are our potential customers?
  • Which products are sold the most?
  • What are the different regional preferences?
  • What products are our competitors selling?
  • What if you sell more of one particular product than another?
  • What are the factors that impact revenue?
  • What are the risks involved with certain initiatives?

Basically, BI is the process by which organizations:

To perform BI activities, data is stored in a database based on volume. It is then extracted from the source database (there may be multiple) and loaded into the required format in some other database. To convert data into the required format, BI professionals will use a conversion tool called an ETL (extract, transform, load) tool (e.g., Talend, Informatica, Dell Boomi).

BI2For example, here is a table representing the source database:

EmployeeID Name Salary
1 AAA 20000
2 BBB 30000
3 CCC 20000

Using an ETL tool, that data can be converted to the required format in the target database (in our example, the required format is the sum of all salaries):

Total Salary

It may be easy for technical teams to understand how to use query language, but for management, it can sometimes be difficult. They often expect the data to be represented in graphical form for easier interpretation. Because of this, BI teams will often leverage reporting tools (e.g., Microstrategy, OBIEE, Cognos) to help with these additional requirements. When those extra steps are added in, the process can evolve into something like this:

BI3BI is exactly as it sounds… it’s the brains of your operation. BI initiatives can help your organization spot trends, gain customer and competitor insights, and help make your data actionable.

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