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What Is Business Intelligence And How To Use It

Companies are constantly looking for ways to improve their operations, inform their strategic decisions, and make changes that increase profits or reduce operating costs.

In today's digital business world, many companies rely on data to help them streamline operations and improve decision-making. Because many business processes take place online or on computer networks, this type of data is readily available.

Your business can collect information about customer activity, business operations, marketing campaigns, and financial results. The trick is to organize and use this info correctly to get insights that lead to actionable strategies.

This is where the fields of business intelligence (BI) and business analytics come into the picture. You can use BI and data analysis tools to garner vital insights from raw data.

What is business intelligence?

A business intelligence system takes raw data, curates it, and transforms it into valuable insights that can inform business decisions.

In addition to strategic information, companies can also use BI tools to measure productivity and efficiency, assess different systems or processes, and audit specific business-related activities.

Business intelligence resources can also include customer data. It can help companies define their target market, assess sales and marketing performance, and gain insights about customer interest and activities based on browsing history and online actions.

How does business intelligence work?

A business intelligence system handles specific data-related tasks to help companies gain insights into their business users. There are 4 key ways these tools do this.

  1. Raw data mining. BI tools dig through data sources for information that could be useful for business analytics. This function is essential because businesses have vast amounts of information, but it is only valuable if well-organized. BI tools can start this curation process.
  2. Automated reporting. BI systems usually come with centralized dashboards that analysts can use to create reports and visualize data so that decision-makers without a statistics or analytics background can understand the information.
  3. Performance analysis. BI tools can collect information in real time to help measure financial or operational performance. Users can enter key performance indicators for specific metrics and get insights into how the company is doing with these benchmarks.
  4. Predictive analytics. Business intelligence software can also take data and run it through computer models or statistical analysis tools to help predict future trends.

Most BI systems rely on machine learning and algorithms to help power data mining, organization, collection, and visualization processes. The goal of all these systems is to get the data from a raw state into a useful state as efficiently as possible.

Does your business need business intelligence?

Can your business benefit from a BI system? These tools are popular among corporations, but small and medium-sized businesses can also benefit from business analytics and data mining. Regardless of your industry, company size, or business model, you can benefit from more informed decision-making processes.

Business intelligence tools may be even more vital for smaller businesses because they have to handle different types of decisions. While corporations have specialist executives, such as a chief financial officer and chief information officer, to handle decisions for their departments, small business owners need to make all the decisions on their own whether or not they are experts in a specific area.

Here is a closer look at the benefits you can expect regardless of the size of your operation.

Real-time analysis

Business intelligence software can do the hard work of collecting and organizing data. With enough computing power, it can handle these processes in seconds. It would take employees days to manually organize the data and enter it into spreadsheets or databases.

The rapid organization of data can help monitor business processes and make adjustments quickly. For example, you can use marketing analytics to learn how customers are reacting to campaigns in real time. You can then adjust your ad placement and budget accordingly. In the age of pay-per-click advertising, these rapid insights can be invaluable and help save money.

Informed decision-making

Business intelligence tools can help decision-making on several levels.

First, company decision-makers and stakeholders can look at BI reports that define problems that need to be solved. They can make decisions that address these issues.

Second, managers and employees can use data to explain and support their decisions to executives. BI software offers data visualization tools that allow you to create graphs and charts to illustrate points using data. These tools make it easier to create compelling presentations that people without technical knowledge can understand.

Test process changes

Business intelligence is not just useful for making decisions. It can also help you assess those decisions after you implement changes.

You can establish key performance indicators that will measure the success of process changes. Then, you can set up business intelligence software to find and monitor data on these KPIs. This will give you the ability to see the results of your changes and track how you are performing relative to your established metrics.

These insights can help you assess efficiency, remove redundancies, and make changes to ensure your processes achieve the desired results.

Make forecasts

Business analytics can help you gain insights into past and current performance and processes. Depending on your business model and industry, you may also be able to use the data to create forecasts.

There are several methods for looking into the future with data.

  • Define and project trends
  • Use mathematical or computer models to predict future performance.

This second approach is often used to help decide about pricing or marketing for products still in development or to predict future demand for a specific type of service and make plans to grow sales in the future.

Share crucial data

Business intelligence software can find and curate important information. It can also make this data accessible throughout your company.

BI systems typically have a central dashboard that you can use to control the dissemination of information to others in the company.

These tools are often cloud-based, so you can give access to employees throughout your company. This allows everyone to be on the same page and have access to the same information, reducing redundancies and ensuring everyone works together toward a common goal.

How to leverage business intelligence

You should always strive to have a proper, systematic approach to using BI in your company. Here are 4 steps you can take to use business intelligence.

1. Source your data

The first step in any business intelligence project is to have sources for data. You can collect your information from websites, CRM platforms, sales data, and internal business processes and systems. In today's hyper-connected business world, you can collect vast amounts of data easily.

2. Define issues and needs

The next step is to decide which data will be valuable. BI software can curate data, but you need to tell it what to look for before it can start. You can begin this step by defining questions you want to answer or problems you need to solve. Then, you decide what information you need to help with solutions or answers.

3. Organize and analyze data

The BI tools can handle the collection and organization of data. This leaves analysts free to look at the results of the process and draw conclusions or make decisions based on their findings.

4. Report the findings and apply changes

Finally, you must visualize the data and report it to the company decision-makers. In a small business, you might use it to make decisions yourself without input from others. Either way, you can use the insights to make changes and then monitor those changes using the same BI systems.

Types of business intelligence tools

Companies that want to leverage business intelligence but need some help can turn to tools. There are several types a company can choose from depending on its needs.

  • Embedded BI software works with existing business software. It makes data collection seamless and is especially useful for assessing business processes.
  • SaaS BI is software hosted by a third-party provider. The advantage of these tools is that you do not have to host or download them on your computers. Also, users can access the tools from anywhere with an internet or data connection.
  • Live BI (real-time BI) collects data for immediate analysis. These systems are ideal for assessing business processes, managing marketing campaigns in real-time, or looking into financial or network performance.
  • Ad hoc analysis allows you to query for specific types of information from a database or data source. Though these are meant to be one-time queries, you can repeat them for ongoing data collection.
  • Mobile BI tools are for smartphones and tablets. They allow access to data and BI dashboards on touchscreens. Some BI systems work on computers but also offer mobile applications for remote access.

Start analyzing data

Once you choose a BI system, you can start your analysis.

Mailchimp offers business-related tools to help with digital analytics and audience analytics for marketing campaigns. With these tools, you can collect the necessary data, organize it, and use it to make informed decisions that benefit your business.

Finally, Mailchimp's proprietary SMART recommendations will make data-informed decisions about content and marketing emails. These suggestions are automatic and can streamline your marketing process.

Consider Mailchimp tools for data-driven decision-making and automated suggestions to help improve your performance.

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