What is Business Intelligence Software

Business intelligence (BI) software analyzes a company’s data and optimizes business processes. It’s used by a wide range of end users — such as corporate executives, marketers and managers — to interpret data, improve productivity and gather customer intelligence. BI software is a blanket term that covers a broad category of software applications, such as data visualizations, digital dashboards and data mining tools.

Business Intelligence Software

BI software harvests data (a process called data mining), keeps it safe and generates reports that tell brands about their business processes. When used as part of a company’s strategic plan, BI software often proves lucrative: The software produced an average return of $13.01 for every dollar spent in 2014, according to Nucleus Research.

This type of software usually has a digital dashboard, which showcases key performance indicators, visualizations and business statistics. Companies can use this information to measure credit risk for loan applicants, reduce fraud, identify new sales opportunities and monitor purchasing habits and behaviors, among a variety of other purposes. As brands often collect large pools of data — around 2.5 billion gigabytes of data was produced every day in 2012 — BI software automates the analytic process, saving these companies time and money.

BI software is a powerful weapon for marketers, too. It helps them to spot industry trends and gather in-depth insights on customers and clients. Unlike business analytics tools, BI software focuses on a business as a whole (sales, inventory management, marketing, statistical modeling) rather than just analytics.

Usually, BI data is stored in a data warehouse, a secure virtual storage unit where businesses keep a large amount of information.

The Benefits of Business Intelligence Software

BI software comes with a heap of benefits for small and medium companies and large enterprises. These include better decision making, improved revenue streams and a competitive advantage over industry rivals. Buyers said they used this software to forecast sales, analyze social media, carry out logistical and operational analysis, improve marketing campaigns, develop new products, segment customer bases and access disparate data.

In recent years, business intelligence apps on mobile devices provide companies with the functionality of business intelligence desktop software, perfect for field sales teams or customer service teams. Cloud BI software, which uploads and stores data in the cloud, is also becoming increasingly popular among professionals.

What Users Say

“As an ABAP consultant, what I like best is that it is easy to create dashboards without coding,” said a user in a review of SAP BusinessObjects Lumira, a type of BI software. “The data bindings are very much easy to implement and the data needed is also easy to set-up.”

“[I like] the ability to perform data visualization at all levels — beginner or quick analysis to advanced analysis — where you control and program your own variables and code,” said a user who reviewed Tableau Desktop, a popular BI platform. “We use this product to analyze our business performance and visualize how our contract vehicles are being utilized by vendors and customers.”

Business intelligence is booming: Fourteen billion dollars was spent on BI software in 2013, and the BI industry is expected to swell to $20 billion by 2019. Part of the software’s appeal is that it spurs businesses to make timely decisions and helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses. BI software enables companies to quickly analyze data so they can enhance productivity, save money and better serve the needs of their customers and clients.