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What is Business Intelligence & Why is it Important?

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This is one of those buzzwords you’ve probably heard a lot recently, but what is business intelligence exactly? 

The term can be rather ambiguous, as it can refer to infrastructure, a set of processes, or a vast range of tools. However you define it, business intelligence can have a tremendous impact on businesses and organisations.

Let’s take a closer look at business intelligence, how it’s used by companies, and how you can work in this exciting field.

business intelligence

What is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence, or BI, is essentially a series of processes that effectively use technology to extract actionable insights from raw data. These processes allow companies to extract meaningful conclusions from data, support better strategies, and allowing them to make better decisions.

BI is a broad concept that spans processes including analysis, data mining, descriptive analysis, and performance benchmarking. It allows businesses to process their data and convert it into understandable and easy-to-digest visuals, reports, and performance measures for effective managerial decision-making. 

In contrast to manually processing data, which is extremely time-consuming as well as prone to error, BI is highly accurate and efficient.

 

How Does BI Work?

BI emerged as a solution to the information gap many companies were facing when it came to decision-making. BI can help organisations achieve complete transparency, get vital information from the mountains of raw data they gathered, and gain actionable insights. 

BI tools help to present findings on user-friendly digital dashboards with metrics and KPIs that are easy to understand.

BI processes can vary, but typically involve four core steps:

  • Collect data, structured or unstructured, from multiple sources.
  • Use data mining and data discovery to find patterns, identify outliers, and clean data.
  • Apply data visualisation techniques to show the findings and results, which could include interactive dashboards and visuals.
  • Take action and use insights to make strategic decisions to help the company reach its goals.

 

How Do Companies Use Business Intelligence?

These days, virtually every department within a company can make use of business intelligence to improve its processes and reach desired outcomes.

Sales and Marketing

To develop effective sales and marketing strategies, businesses need to understand consumer behaviour. BI can offer invaluable insights into customers’ purchasing patterns and identify buying trends, allowing companies to apply tactics and develop strategies accordingly.

Finance

Finance has always been a challenging area for businesses to streamline and optimize. With so many systems and controls in place, companies used a complex set of tools to manage them. However, BI has changed that, with tools to streamline financial management tasks, from risk analysis and trend prediction to analysing the organization’s financial position.

Operations

BI allows companies to automate major tasks and refine their processes, all of which help to increase productivity. It also means the organisation can spend less on monitoring routine tasks, while freeing their staff to work on more strategic projects.

Customer Experience

Customer experience has been completely transformed with the advent of BI tools. Being able to use customer information allows companies to improve and personalise their customer support services. With all information in one place, all customer service staff can easily access it to improve customer engagement and interaction.

Inventory Control

When used correctly, data can also help companies optimise their supply chains, save time and money, and use this to gain a competitive advantage. BI makes inventory management easier, more efficient, and more accurate, allowing companies to reduce costs, anticipate purchasing trends, and accelerate fulfilment.

Security and Compliance

BI also allows organisations to centralise their data and make it accessible to all departments. This not only makes it easier to access vital information, but it also improves the accuracy and transparency of information available, as well as making it easier to immediately address security concerns. When everybody on the team is on the same page, it’s also easier to minimise compliance risks.

 

How To Work in Business Intelligence

As business intelligence becomes increasingly well-recognized by companies, more roles and exciting career paths are emerging in this field.

With the right training and qualification, you can land prestigious jobs such as:

  • Data Scientist
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Engineer
  • Business Intelligence Manager
  • Business Analyst
  • Director of Analytics
  • Business Intelligence Consultant

To work in business intelligence, you’ll generally need a relevant MBA or MSc. Relevant work experience as well as data analysis certifications will also be helpful, as this will demonstrate that you are familiar with important analytical software. You should also be able to demonstrate skills in areas such as IT, statistics, business administration, and strategic management.

Read the testimonial of Bee, who is currently working in the Business Intelligence department at Lazada, the leading eCommerce platform in Southeast Asia.

Build a Career in Business Intelligence

Given the broad scope of business intelligence, it’s not surprising that even business executives are unclear on what is business intelligence. Although BI involves certain tools or processes, they are part of a holistic approach and infrastructure that is currently transforming the business landscape.

Therefore, mastering the concepts of business intelligence requires more than just a quick course in data analysis or similar. 

 

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