Business intelligence tools are applications and technologies which gather, store, and analyze data to help the enterprise make better business decisions. Selling like hotcakes today, nearly every enterprise has a business intelligence tool in its kitty which can provide the historical, current, and predictive view of the business operations. The key objective for any business intelligence tool is to provide insightful analysis from the huge volume of available data, which can facilitate the decision-making process. They use an intelligence information system which often use data warehouses or data marts to extract production data, data about the company, and its environment and economic data.
Different users require and use different tool capabilities, so while predictive analysis might help a company save billions of dollars, business query tools empower the analysts to build their own queries, which would allow them to investigate new opportunities and investigate exceptions. Therefore, to increase the productivity of a given tool, it is important to match the tool with the intended user and segment. For example, a production report tool is of no use for a person in need of a business report tool.
Let us look at the common business intelligence tools, in use today:
Spreadsheets: One of the most commonly used computer applications for business intelligence, spreadsheets contains a formula that defines how the content of the cell is to be calculated, from any other cell. There are many interactive spreadsheets available like Visicalc, Apple numbers, Gnu Numeric, however, it is Microsoft Excel, which maintains a stronghold in the spreadsheet market share. These applications are best used for business operations reporting and goal tracking.
OLAP: Online analytical processing or OLAP is geared towards slicing and dicing of data. It uses a multidimensional data model, which is also referred to as the multidimensional cube or the hypercube. It has a capability to store and manage data in a way that it can be used to generate actionable information.
Digital Dashboards: This is an executive information system user interface, used to track the flow of the business process that is being monitored. The users are able to see the high level processes, which can be drilled down to lower level data. The major dashboards in use are the stand alone software applications and desktop applications such as the widget.
Data Mining: An analytical tool for data analysis, data mining is the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing them into useful information. By looking into large relational databases, the correlations and patterns can be found so as to determine the impact on the business.
Process Mining: The idea behind process mining is the extraction of knowledge from event logs, which have been recorded by an information system. For example, the audit trails of workflow management system. Tools such as ProM and ProM Import are used for process mining.
Reporting and Querying Software: These are tools which report, extract, sort, and summarize selected data. There are various open source reporting software like Agata Report, Pentaho, and Jasper Reports as well as commercial tools like MicroStrategy and Oracle XML publisher.
Business Performance Management: These are a set of processes which organize, automate, and analyze business methodologies, metrics, processes, and intelligence.
There are various open source and proprietary business intelligence products available in the market. Notable open source products include Pentaho Open BI suite, OpenI, Jpivot, Weka, RapidMiner, and others. Proprietary products from Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP, SAS, and many others are available for the enterprises.
Business intelligence tools have now become an indispensable part of companies around the world. There are a host of BI tools available in the market. However, it is important that the right tool be used in the right way to maximize productivity.