In the current digital world, technologies are evolving at a rapid pace. Besides, the advent of cutting-edge digital technologies has transformed our lives in many ways. Apart from impacting our non-professional lives, digital advancements have left their mark in the current business environment.
Today, companies around the world can easily turn to data-driven tools to design and create business strategies. Such tools have gradually gained popularity as business intelligence (BI) tools or solutions. Businesses from around the world are investing in top BI tools and techniques to improve their decision-making.
BI tools and techniques have proven to help businesses understand their customers better than ever before. Nearly 54% of enterprises were convinced that cloud-based BI was detrimental to their future projects .
Although business intelligence offers a gamut of benefits, not everyone is taking advantage of it. Before we take a look at the top business software tools, let’s understand what business intelligence is and why it is important.
Table of Contents
- What is business intelligence?
- Why does business intelligence matter?
- What are the various BI techniques?
- What are the elements of BI?
- Who needs BI?
- Which are the top BI software tools?
- BI Market Trends
- Final words
What is business intelligence?
Business intelligence is a culmination of technologies and techniques utilized by businesses to evaluate data and information. In layman’s terms, business intelligence enables companies to identify trends or processes that impact performance.
Over the past decade, thanks to advances in technology, business intelligence dashboards have emerged. These dashboards provide insights into a company’s performance, revenue, sales plans, customer behavior, and more.
Why is business intelligence so important?
John Owen said “Data is what you need to do analytics. Information is what you need to do business. We couldn’t have agreed more. In today’s business landscape, companies that utilize analytics and business intelligence are thriving.
One of the major factors why these companies are likely to stand the test of time is because using data provides a competitive advantage. With this edge over their competitors, they can improve their customer relationships, boost employee productivity, and provide better services and products.
However, without business intelligence, businesses are far off from attaining these objectives productively. This is why business intelligence in today’s world has become very important.
What are the various BI techniques?
Data mining is known as a process that is used to deduce actionable data from a larger database. Data mining leverages computers to identify patterns and unusual trends in different data entities. Data mining is increasingly being used in different industrial sectors such as banking, e-commerce, healthcare, insurance, and more.
Data visualization is essential to add life to your data. When you gather huge volumes of data, it is very difficult to interpret it. For example, it is hard to identify whether your sales are going up or down. In addition, when you are going through more than one dimension of data, it becomes difficult to get to the crux.
This is where data visualization steps in. With data visualization, you can create charts and graphs to represent your data. This not only helps you understand data but also provides you with clarity.
BI tools and techniques are extremely useful in designing, scheduling, and generating an array of reports. The reports that are typically generated by BI tools present data in a format that is easy to understand for the management. Besides, with these reports, the stakeholders can improve resource management and take better strategic decisions.
Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)
OLAP is important to facilitate smooth analysis of various dimensions of a multidimensional data set. OLAP has garnered noteworthy attention due to OLAP cubes.
OLAP-cubes show information on the edges of a cube such as a customer type, product, customer age, etc.
Every BI tool user can scan through OLAP cubes via drill-down, -across, and -up features. Each and every functionality of an OLAP cube is provided in real-time.
Time-series analysis (Predictive techniques)
A large majority of enterprise and warehouse data have a time dimension. For instance, patient hospitalizations, phone calls, sales, etc. It is critical to keep track of changes in user behavior over time, changes made in sale contracts based on marketing efforts, and more.
Based on past data, users can make predictions of future outcomes and trends.
Statistical analysis is a product of mathematical principles that qualify the reliability of data trends and patterns. Statistical analysis is primarily used to analyze results drawn from data mining.
Elements of BI Tools
Modern-day business software tools play a crucial role in streamlining the process of syncing different business systems. Connecting various business systems paves the way for swift and accurate data analysis.
Moreover, when you connect different systems, the management or the key decision-makers have a comprehensive view of different areas of their business. In addition, it also allows them to integrate, analyze, and compare real-time and historical data.
When users are able to connect different systems, it creates a consolidated source through which decisions can be made.
It is very important that BI tools can be integrated with hundreds of applications, file types, and databases. Flexible BI tools allow businesses to create a dynamic cloud-based data warehouse.
Any business tool without a robust security framework is an open invitation to disaster. The same logic is applicable for BI tools. Any sort of security lapse or malfunction can incur considerable monetary damage.
A BI software tool should have a well-structured security framework that safeguards sensitive data. After all, data is the fuel on which your company runs.
The most popular BI tools are designed with end-users in mind. If you cannot provide an optimal user experience in today’s business environment, you are likely to lag behind in the race.
Current trends suggest that users are gravitating towards finding real-time information on an ad hoc basis and make changes when required. Further, the dashboards should be intuitive and present data in a format wherein looking for information is quick and easy.
Some of the other important elements of a successful BI tool include scalability, flexibility, reporting, and KPIs.
Who Requires BI?
It is safe to say that businesses across various industries have processes that are driven by large volumes of data. Although most companies have the resources and means to create large pools of data, they are clueless about how data can be used to improve decision-making.
Companies around the world spend millions of dollars on comparing & merging data from datasets that are unstructured. When they start spotting the loopholes within their current process, it is a good time to invest in a BI tool to address them.
Every company that is dealing with large pools of data that need to be analyzed is an ideal candidate for BI.
Top BI Tools
Dundas BI is developed by Dundas Data Visualization. It is one of the most popular BI tools used by businesses from different industrial sectors.
The tool is predominantly used to build scorecards, dashboards, an organization’s historic strengths, etc. However, it can also be used for ad-hoc and standard reporting.
There is a difference in the list of features for standard users and Power features. In addition, the tool’s latest version comes with tons of features that make it one of the most sought-after business software tools.
Some of the features include point-and-click trend analysis, natural language query capability, application development environment for tailored analytic applications.
The tool is developed to cater to the requirements of 19 industrial domains.
Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is among the best BI solutions for a range of reasons. If you use the Power BI Desktop application for Windows, you can visualize data from cloud or local sources.
Power BI holds the pole position in several areas such as dashboard interactiveness, visual-based discovery, data preparation, augmented analytics, and more.
The free version is perfect for freelancers, solopreneurs, and isolated workers. However, if you are working in a team, you should be looking at the Pro version that is charged monthly.
Enterprise-grade companies should be looking at the Premium model which includes a full range of features.
Tableau Software offers a lot of flexibility in terms of deployment. You can either run it on-premise, host it on a public cloud, or let the vendor host it entirely.
What sets Tableau apart from the rest of the competition is that it offers a customized version for an array of industries. These industries include banking, healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology among others.
Tableau also enables companies to gather data from different sources such as spreadsheets, cloud applications such as Salesforce, SQL databases to build a collective dataset.
The tool’s interactive dashboard and live visual analytics allow users to segment datasets to generate the most relevant insights. More recently, Tableau has turned to artificial intelligence techniques of natural language processing. With this, users can decide what information they want to see.
You can read our Tableau review to know more about the tool and its features.
Qlik’s objective is to provide all users within the enterprise access to its data. Qlik offers two solutions i.e., a guided tool known as QlikView and a self-service business intelligence tool, QlikSense.
This BI software provides an interactive data operation. This allows users to collect and use data at every step including input, processing, and output.
One of the most unique features of QlikView is that it comes with a system memory function. This function provides detailed information about every action that occurred during analysis.
Sisense BI can be categorized among the best BI tools in 2021 due to its In-chip database engine. According to the vendor, the in-chip database engine is considerably faster than in-memory databases.
The platform provides the most advanced tools to manage and support data via reporting, visuals, and analytics. In addition, the tool enables companies to evaluate large datasets and identify critical trends from them.
Sisense is popular for embedded business intelligence uses. The tool’s latest version brings in advanced machine learning features. Sisense can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud. The company acquired Periscope Data in September 2019. Following this acquisition, Sisense has successfully managed to introduce cutting-edge analytics capabilities.
BI Market Trends
Now that you are aware of the different BI tools and techniques, it is time to look at a couple of market trends.
In-memory processing vs disk-based approach
As mentioned earlier, traditionally, OLAP systems would calculate different data combinations. These calculations were primarily stored in the cube and users could gather data from these cubes. However, building these cubes was time-consuming and required technical expertise.
At present, computer processors are faster, more powerful, and cost-efficient than ever before. This is why in-memory processing is gradually replacing the disk-based approach with cubes.
There is no hiding from the fact that as the internet spans its wings across the globe, the volume of data being created is expanding. This is termed “big data” by IT experts.
In the current scenario, business analytics companies are ramping up their data analytics and warehousing capabilities to fulfill this increasing demand.
In their quest to gain an upper hand, a lot of enterprises have started to invest in BI tools to exploit big data.
A large number of organizations are inclined towards implementing SaaS or “cloud” BI software instead of on-premise counterparts. A major factor driving this trend is cost.
The economic downturn in several countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled companies around the world to explore open source and SaaS vendors.
Apart from cost, minimum dependency on IT, swift implementation, and ease of use are some of the other factors that are pushing this trend.
If you are not sure about which SaaS strategy is the best for your business, you can read our blog on the most effective and tried and tested SaaS strategies.
There is no running away from Business Intelligence. Companies of all sizes require business intelligence to grow and generate more revenue. BI is a flexible and versatile solution that is resourceful to every industry.
We hope you found this blog informative and enjoyed reading about different BI software tools. If you have any questions or would like to know more about BI, please feel free to leave your comments.
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Image 1 Source: Tableau
Image 2 Source: rawpixel.com
 Bulao. J (2021) “31+ Amazing Business Intelligence Statistics for 2021” TechJury [online] Available from: https://techjury.net/blog/business-intelligence-statistics/#gref [accessed May 2021]