There’s a difference between simply collecting data and using data to generate actionable insights.
In the past, being a great leader often meant sharpening your intuition and trusting your gut instincts when making key decisions. Data-driven decision making was a rare luxury.
However, there are hard limits on how far your intuition can take you. Today’s most successful leaders look for opportunities to verify important decisions before they commit to them. Gathering, analyzing, and visualizing data makes this possible.
For entrepreneurs, business leaders, and enterprise executives, the process of transforming data into actionable insights that inform strategic business decisions is called Business Intelligence (BI). This concept is central to today’s data-driven business environment, enabling leaders to achieve more and risk less.
What is BI?
Business intelligence tools take data from multiple sources, analyze the data according to business needs, and present their findings in a highly visual format. Business Intelligence is the ability to use data to inform business decisions on a strategic level, so that you don’t always have to rely solely on intuition.
BI systems typically contain four parts:
- A centralized data warehouse that consolidates information from a variety of sources and makes it available in a single, accessible location.
- Data management and analytics tools that identify valuable patterns in the data.
- Business performance management tools that match data analysis trends with measurable performance towards specific strategic goals.
- An interactive dashboard that displays information in a direct and highly visual way.
By gathering multiple data sources from across the organization’s entire network, BI tools enable comprehensive, scalable analysis for key performance indicators. They work online, offline, and across multiple devices so that business leaders get a big-picture perspective of how their organization really works.
Real-Life Examples of BI Tools at Work
BI tools can offer incredibly valuable insights on nearly every aspect of business performance. Some examples of BI tools and contexts include:
- Employee tracking - Employee monitoring technology can enable better talent management and improve organization-wide productivity when used in a BI context.
- Supply chain monitoring - System monitoring software can help business leaders predict and manage supply chain risks, reducing disruptions and delays.
- Workforce training - Computer activity tracker solutions can help businesses use attendance and performance data to improve corporate training initiatives.
- Sales optimization - Tech-enabled sales teams routinely use BI tools to measure sales performance and identify opportunities to reduce process inefficiencies.
- Business Efficiency - Data-driven decision-makers use BI tools to solve specific challenges like cart abandonment, wasted ad spend, and IT dependency.
What’s the Difference Between BI and Business Analytics?
At first glance, BI tools might appear to address the same problems that business analytics tools solve. The two concepts are closely related, but are set apart by a few distinguishing characteristics.
There is some conjecture about the exact definition of each, but the best approximation of the two is:
Business intelligence focuses on delivering real-time insights into how organizations work. It answers questions about how business processes are operating on incredibly short timeframes, identifying trends and patterns. BI tends to focus on what happened and how, rather than why. BI tools aren’t limited to informing managers with computer activity tracker data from six months ago – they can tell you what was happening six hours ago.
Business analytics, on the other hand, typically rely on data analysis techniques to use past performance to predict current and future results. They delve into why things happened. Then inform you what’s going to happen in the future, and what you can do to optimize those outcomes in the meantime.
This distinction is important because it demonstrates that business intelligence and business analytics are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are complementary tools that serve different purposes. BI tools tell you what’s happening right now, while business analytics predict how the past will influence future performance.
Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics: Who Is the Data For?
To easily distinguish between business intelligence and business analytics, look at who the system or tool in question curates data for. Find out who is supposed to use the data and how.
Business intelligence offers straightforward, easy-to-understand snapshots of business performance. Often, these come through an interactive dashboard with customizable charts, graphs, and maps accompanied by relevant analysis.
Business analytics data is rarely so easy to parse. Often, it takes a data science professional to select the appropriate predictive model for analyzing and interpreting this kind of data. There is a significant barrier of entry that prevents everyday users – and non-technical decision-makers – from readily using this data.
BI tools are designed to help people make decisions without requiring a great deal of time and effort on their part. Real-time data should inform decisions quickly, so it’s vital that insights are clear and understandable to just about anyone.
What BI Tools Should Companies Use?
For company leaders and core decision-makers, choosing the right BI tool can mean the difference between success and failure. Not all BI implementations achieve their stated goals, and not all BI tools are equally effective.
Before you can implement the right BI tools, you have to identify the problems you expect BI solutions to solve, and understand how your company’s specifics fits into their framework. Some tools offer niche insights that are critical for specific applications, while others form the foundation of an entire enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform.
At the same time, individual technologies change at a rapid pace. To address this, we’re going to cover some of the specific implementations your BI tools should cover.
Customer Experience Optimization
BI tools allow customer experience professionals to eliminate guesswork and focus on hard data. The ability to make changes to the customer experience, get feedback in real-time, and then adjust quickly is vital for success in today’s dynamic technological landscape.
You can use BI tools to monitor customer satisfaction, aggregate customer surveys, and even catch social media trends that impact your reputation in real-time. These initiatives can help you drive conversions while reducing customer churn significantly.
Data Governance and Security
BI tools make the assumption that data is a vital strategic asset. Making data accessible to the people and systems that need it while preventing unauthorized access is vital to the success of any BI initiative. It’s also a core use case for BI capabilities.
Even at small organizations, permissions, authorizations, and audit logs form an incredibly complex system that resists easy interpretation. At large enterprises, these issues take on strategic importance. BI tools let you quickly identify who has access to sensitive data, enabling compliance and security without dragging down productivity.
Computer Activity Tracker
Employee tracking solutions can make a major difference in your company’s use and application of talent. Staff tracking software can go far beyond simple time and attendance monitoring, enabling managers to identify top performers and provide them with opportunities to excel.
Real-time business intelligence data is an ideal asset for handling delicate tasks like promotions and project assignments. Work tracking tools can help you put your best talent to work on your most challenging initiatives, and give you the agility to make quick changes when needed.
Digital Marketing Strategy
Without a core set of BI tools informing digital marketing decisions, you may end up spending weeks, months, or even years pouring money into marketing campaigns that don’t yield results. You may miss out on critical, time-sensitive opportunities to generate revenue by adapting your strategy to meet new goals.
Agile digital marketing initiatives need real-time analysis and insight. BI tools enable marketing leaders to capitalize on valuable trends quickly, improving returns and minimizing waste in the process.
Start Gathering Business Intelligence Now
With the right set of tools, you can base your most important decisions in accurate, real-time data that reflects your business strategy and priorities. Business intelligence tools that enable revenue optimization, efficiency monitoring, and employee tracking are vital to data-driven success in today’s business environment.