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Business Intelligence (BI)

Definition - What does Business Intelligence (BI) mean?

Business intelligence (BI) is the use of computing technologies for the identification, discovery and analysis of business data - like sales revenue, products, costs and incomes.

BI technologies provide current, historical and predictive views of internally structured data for products and departments by establishing more effective decision-making and strategic operational insights through functions like online analytical processing (OLAP), reporting, predictive analytics, data/text mining, benchmarking and Business Performance Management (BPM). These technologies and functions are often referred to as information management.

Techopedia explains Business Intelligence (BI)

Developed in the mid-1980s, modern BI evolved from 1960s-era decision support systems (DSS), which, with help of computer-aided models, assisted with planning and decision-making, leading to executive information systems (EIS), data warehouses (DW), OLAP and BI. BI did not achieve widespread acceptance until the late 1990s.

BI software applications are used to gather data from data warehouses or data marts, which are separate yet linked BI architectural stack segments used for the preparation and use of data.

BI is used for multiple business purposes, including:

  • Measurement of performance and benchmarking progress toward business goals
  • Quantitative analysis through predictive analytics, predictive modeling, business process modeling and statistical analysis
  • Reporting of departmental/divisional and enterprise perspectives of data visualization, EISs and OLAP
  • Collaborative programs that allow internal and external business entities to collaborate through electronic data interchange (EDI) and data sharing
  • Use of knowledge management programs to identify and create insights and experiences for learning management and regulatory compliance

BI also involves specific methodologies and procedures for implementing such interactive information gathering techniques, including:

  • Identifying interview teams
  • Researching organizations
  • Selecting and preparing interviewees
  • Developing interview questions
  • Scheduling and sequencing interviews

BI and its subset, competitive intelligence (CI), are considered synonymous. Like CI, BI is considered a decision support system (DSS). CI manages information focused on business competitors, whereas BI manages these functions (and more) by focusing on internal business products and departments.

Studies by Merrill Lynch indicate that 85 percent of all business information is made up of unstructured or semi-structured data, including emails, news, reports, Web pages, presentations, phone conversation notes, image files, video files and marketing information. In the IT industry, management of such data is considered a major unsolved problem.

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