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Published July 07th, 2016 by

Buyer’s Guide to Choosing Quality Business Intelligence Software

Buyer's Guide to Choosing Quality Business Intelligence Software

Business intelligence is slowly reaching its full maturity with its numerous and expanded features that proved to be an effective and valuable asset in any type of business. Several types of business intelligence software have been around for many years, serving changing business needs and have eventually built a lasting business partnership for many successful companies across the world. The business intelligence market has been competitive with many players participating in its further development and feature extensions. Many emerging players have already integrated “out of the box” features to support sales from end users, while technological giants and established providers continue to evolve to sustain loyalty among its users. Business intelligence is a product of the information era, where consumers and businesses alike reap so much benefit from the evolution of data.

Business Intelligence Software Categories

Business intelligence software are technology applied methods that transforms big business data into credible and reliable information, which in turn makes up a critical support system for key areas in business development and management. For many decades, business ventures prove the importance of data in providing valuable insights about market trends, statistical performance measurements, profit generation and operations management. Business intelligence software also promote increased productivity and efficiency among its users because it dramatically decreases work in dealing with massive amounts of business data. This enables employees to divert their time and energy to core tasks in the business organization.

Business intelligence tools provide a slew of features and capabilities, as well as high level of compatibility and integration with other business tools and databases. It is also dynamic in processing business data across many sources. There are also diversified options for customizing and tailor fitting its software packages to benefit different types of business scales. Another noteworthy feature is its different ways of generating analytical reports for various key performers in the business organization. To further understand how business intelligence lives up to its impressive reputation in the business scene, BI tools have been grouped into 3 categories based on its features and capabilities:

  1. Legacy Analysis and Reporting  – This category refers to reports and evaluations under the traditional way of analyzing and presenting data. In the past, it only generates flat and static reports which are generated from pre-defined set of data. The IT department has full authority in the creation of BI tool applications to be used within the company. Due to the continuous evolution of both business needs and software development, the used to be limitations of this category enabled the users to be more in control of its operation. Now, the users can apply filters, sort and compare, and analyze data using different tool types. These tool types include, but not limited, to the following:
  2. Reports – these are the usual output generated by a business intelligence software that aids in condensing information from business data to a more insightful and understandable form. Reports may provide department specific, or overall company status reports that engage the business organization in discussions about goal setting and campaign improvements. Reporting tool in business intelligence is also useful in encouraging the exchange of ideas and insights among members of each business department that promotes collaboration and unity in work language.
  3. Dashboards – are specialized ways of report presentation, that enables side by side and a simultaneous representation of the status levels of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of a business. It provides a visual representation of data collected that are usually statistics based, and in the form of graphs and charts for better recognition and understanding. Because of the advancements in technology, dashboards can now present data interactively and in real time, for faster response to certain critical levels. Also, the real time feature enables users to see new business trends and immediately seize sudden opportunities that may arise from it. Dashboards also enable historical data to be manipulated for gaining new insights from time to time.
  4. Overall Business and Department Performance Management – business intelligence tools enable an effective monitoring of each of the key areas of the business. Like in marketing, business intelligence tools can be created for the purpose of lead generation and in monitoring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. In sales, performance management is important in knowing when to take action in seeing sales reports. In the executive level, it alerts the user of the overall business performance based on the ROI timeframe, as well as if overall business goals are met.
  5. Spreadsheet Integration – this implies to merging of business data where modifications and changes made by one can be seen by all users of the spreadsheet. This is particularly useful when streamlining workflows across the business organization, and aligning concerned employees’ decisions with regard to the generated reports with the company’s goals and specified acceptable statistical measurements. Spreadsheet integration can implement a more effective collaboration towards achieving overall business goals.
  6. Self-service BI – Self-service business intelligence is a more user friendly approach to data analytics, that enables non-professionals or even first time users to operate and understand the underlying basic principles of business intelligence. It frees up the users of understanding how the more complex technologies like data mining, works and instead gain the control to introduce their own queries and criteria to support the reports they want to generate. This enables the IT or business intelligence tool creators to decrease their need to do most of the reports, making them more productive and focus on the core tasks in their own department. Also, to make it truly self servicing as it is termed, it is also created with a user friendly interface for a more intuitive use for non-technical users. Representations of data must also be easy to retrieve and understand for better perception and analysis. But for better utilization, a training for business intelligence tool usage and operation is encouraged. The data warehouse, or the centralized data storage area of a business, should be set up by the IT ahead of time for more efficient implementation and use.

Self-service business intelligence also encourages the use of other external data sources, apart from the predefined set, to be able to gain more insights for future market approaches. In a recent study, a majority of the participants responded positively when asked with questions concerning the impact of self service BI in the business. 53% said that they noticed outstanding potential, 87% attested that they are successful in using it, 63% appreciates a more user friendly and intuitive interface that it introduced, and 57% have expressed interest in adopting more innovative features in the near future. The gaining popularity of self-service business intelligence is a clear indication that users prefer a more controllable and customizable business tool that grows alongside their business. Within this category, business intelligence tool styles include the following:

  1. Ad-hoc Reporting and Analysis – this implies a simplified perspective of business intelligence and its capabilities and implementation. Its simplicity features doesn’t refute the powerful features it already has, but what is more impressive is that even non-technical professionals can understand what it does and how these things are done. Self-service BIs are also user friendly in a way it presents and enable varied ways of manipulating data according to the type of report a user wanted to generate. A more user friendly interface encourages more businesses to adopt a business intelligence software to be utilized by more users.
  2. Online Analytical Process, or OLAP – OLAP tools are dynamic enough to analyze different dimensions of data in differing perspectives as well. It allows analysis of data and realization of reports without the complexities of the data mining process, also in a faster way. During the span of its operation, data interrelations are maintained and represented by a hypercube, for a more visual representation of numerical information in a multidimensional view. This cube can be “sliced and diced” to uncover more insights and relationships between data to generate more in depth and perspective based reports. OLAP tools are usually used in sales, marketing and management reporting, and also useful in process management, budgeting and forecasting within the business.
  3. Data Discovery – this enables user to enter the world of data mining, but rather in a more encouraging and systematic environment that withheld of the complexities of the process. Within the context of data mining, users can do the patterns and correlation search among data, but in a simpler way because data have already been converted into visually enhanced and understandable forms like graphs, charts, geographical images and tables. Users can discover more insights by themselves and dictate the degree of simplicity of the data shown.
  4. Data Visualization – more than what is pleasing in the eye, the use of graphical representation of data and analysis saves a lot of time in going through and consuming textual reports. A creative way of presenting data also should be intuitive, and in the case today, can also show key performance indicator statuses in real time for a more prompt action on problems or opportunities that arise from the BI tool.
  5. Advanced Analytics – Advanced analytics is a very promising enhancement of future business intelligence software that already gained a lot of interest and have been allocated with an appropriate business budget for some. It includes a more relevant way of predictive analysis, which is valuable in marketing and overall goal setting. It also enables more studies and development in the field of data analytics, where in fact that it is becoming more complex yet provides more intense and powerful benefits for businesses, data scientists and analysts are the only ones who can utilize it. Advanced analytics have also expanded the capabilities of data mining in the near future.

In business, it is not just the financial aspect of a certain product or service that is in question, but the “hows” that come with it. How can it be beneficial in my business? How can it create an impact on my business’ day to day operations? How can it increase my profits and revenue? How can it help my employees be more productive and efficient in their workplaces? How can it help me cut operational and other business costs in the long run? How can I recover my ROI from it? These are pressing questions that can be answered by the long list of features, capabilities and benefits that a business can gain from getting a BI software for your company. Still stuck in the rut? Let this exhaustive list of the best business intelligence softwares help you in making the right choice. To gain more insights and valuable feedbacks from existing users, visit CrowdReviews.com to read reviews of business intelligence software from experts and professionals alike.

John Tovar

John specializes in the creation and planning of business-centric mobile applications and mobile website design and development.

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