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What Is Business Intelligence?

It’s not uncommon to hear businesses from the smallest enterprises to large corporations lament: We are “drowning in data, but starving for insights.”

That’s the title of a 2018 Deloitte Insights white paper that examines the causes of and solutions to problems associated with potentially overwhelming amounts of data.

A recent report from digital solutions provider Domo estimates that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every minute. That’s 2.5 million terabytes – every minute.

The capacity to locate raw, stored data relevant to a business’ objectives and then extract and transform the data into actionable Business Intelligence (BI) provides a significant competitive advantage. In addition, businesses that deploy BI at scale are able to make better, faster decisions than those that lack the analytics systems and professionals to manage them.

Transforming Data into Insights That Drive Smart Decisions

Business Intelligence and Business Analytics (BA) are distinct operations that data-savvy companies integrate to support Data-Driven Decision-Making (DDDM), a process that enables stakeholders to identify the current operations and develop strategies and tactics that optimize them.

Moira Alexander, an information and systems technology consultant, describes that distinction in by noting that BI comprises systems and processes that use data to provide “descriptive,” real-time metrics that improve visibility into projects, processes and outcomes.

On the other hand, BA “is considered predictive, in that it focuses on the ‘why’ to help make more informed predictions about the future … predict challenges and adapt to provide improved outcomes.”

The Positive Impact of Data-Driven Decision-Making (DDDM)

Like everything else in the world of data and automation, BI is constantly changing and evolving from its original meaning of 50 years ago as a system for simply sharing information across organizations.

In its current iteration, Tableau, a global brand in DDDM technology, defines BI as “solutions [that] prioritize flexible self-service analysis, govern data on trusted platforms, empower business users, and [accelerate] speed to insight.”

DDDM is the product of integrating the descriptive snapshot of BI and the descriptive insights of BA. The result creates potentially unlimited capacity to identify challenges and opportunities; model potential solutions and strategies; and deploy and execute them with a previously impossible degree of certainty.

Harvard Business School mentions three examples of data giants using DDDM to reduce inefficiencies and seize opportunities in its Business Insights Blog:

  • Google mined data from more than 10,000 performance reviews to develop a training program to improve management competency and employee satisfaction.
  • Starbucks uses location analytics to predict the likelihood of success at a given location before investing in it.
  • Amazon uses data to decide what products to recommend based on customers’ past purchases and search patterns.

Businesses that can extract, analyze and act on the “mountain of data” generated by their operations have access to insights that can increase efficiencies in sales and marketing, according to Jeff Pruitt, chairman and CEO of customer-experience design firm, Tallwave.

Pruitt describes ways a company of any size can use data-driven intelligence to optimize its customer-facing operations, including:

  • Identifying profitable customers and when, where and how to target them
  • Pinpointing issues that caused problems in lead-generation
  • Detecting historical reasons that cause sales and marketing results to rise or fall

Datumize, a data-integration software company, predicts the demand for BI professionals will increase across all sectors, as businesses find data analysis expertise “crucial” to business performance. The firm noted on its website: “This expertise is essential to the role and many business intelligence analysts will also have training experience in several analytic processes.”

The Master of Science in Data Analytics online program offered by Northwest Missouri State University enables students to gain the expertise to step into BI roles that require using technology techniques to identify, collect, analyze and transform data. If a role in this realm interests you, an advanced degree is a great place to start.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s Master of Science in Data Analytics online program.


CIO: The Data-Driven Project Manager: Using Analytics to Improve Outcomes

Datumize: Why it Is Crucial to Hire a BI Analyst to Drive Business Performance

Deloitte: Drowning in Data, Starving for Insights

Domo: Data Never Sleeps 5.0

Harvard Business School: The Advantages of Data-Driven Decision-Making

Tableau: Business Intelligence: What It Is, How It Works, Its Importance, Examples, & Tools

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