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Types of Business Intelligence Tools

Many of the business intelligence tools on the market today offer similar features and functionality. But, what sets one business intelligence implementation apart from another is the way in which the solution is applied to support decision-making. Below is an overview of some of the most popular ways in which business intelligence tools can be utilized.

Executive Scorecards and Dashboards

A company’s top-level managers don’t have time to generate ad-hoc reports. That’s why many business intelligence tools enable the deployment of graphical dashboards that allow senior executives to monitor key performance indicators and critical metrics in real-time, providing them with an “at a glance” view of the overall state of the business.

OLAP Analysis

Business analysts and other power users – those that are responsible for uncovering the most sophisticated trends in corporate data – must be able to analyze information down to the finest detail. Most business intelligence tools offer in-depth online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities, allowing users to instantly manipulate data in an unlimited number of ways, so it can be reviewed from multiple perspectives.

Ad hoc Reporting

In many cases, simply refreshing the content in an existing report will be enough to satisfy a worker’s specific information need. However, often times, employees will need to rapidly create a new report to answer an urgent question, make an “on the fly” decision, or address a pending issue. Many of today’s most popular business intelligence tools provide features that allow even non-technical users to quickly and easily build and generate their own custom reports.

Operational Reporting

Every day, in every business, thousands of operational tasks are executed. Businesses run on these activities, and any inefficiencies or errors can significantly impact performance. Business intelligence tools can be used to support the kind of operational reporting that enables real-time monitoring of day-to-day events. So, problems can be instantly identified and corrected.

Forecasting

A company’s ability to anticipate trends is critical to maintaining organizational flexibility and agility. Additionally, historical data must be leveraged to predict future events in order to ensure effective strategic planning. That’s why many business intelligence tools include predictive analytics that allow for rapid and highly accurate forecasting.

Data Mining

Companies today maintain massive volumes of information. And sometimes, sorting through that data to find what’s most relevant can be a daunting task – particularly for business users who aren’t technically-savvy. The data mining features within many business intelligence tools can help locate and extract the most important information from large data sets, making it much easier for users to access and leverage the information they really need, instead of wasting time browsing through the data they don’t.

Customer Intelligence

As organizations strive to become more customer-centric, they are turning to business intelligence tools to gather and consolidate the client data that resides in various systems such as CRM, accounting, and help desk applications. This provides a complete, 360-degree view of all customer interactions, so businesses can better understand needs, behaviors, and preferences and use that knowledge to implement more successful loyalty and up-sell/cross-sell programs.

  • Marek J Druzdzel

    Nice overview.  However, where would you place causal
    discovery and causal modeling tools?  It
    is theoretically and practically possible to discover the causal structure of
    complex system from data, enhance this with expert knowledge, and build models
    that allow for asking “What if?” questions, where the “Ifs”
    are possible manipulations/policy actions.  Placing these in the data mining category would
    not be doing these methods full justice that they deserve.  They are well grounded in statistics and at
    the same time practical and useful.  See,
    for example, http://genie.sis.pitt.edu/.