Business Intelligence

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What Does Business Intelligence 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.


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 (DWs), online analytical processing (OLAP) and business analytics (BA). BI did not achieve widespread acceptance until the late 1990s.

Today, BI is used for multiple business purposes, including:

Techopedia Explains Business Intelligence

BI technologies provide current, historical and predictive views of data to establish more effective decision-making and strategic operational insights.

Business Intelligence Software

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.

Except for spreadsheets, this type of software typically handles data discovery, integrating data from multiple sources into one dashboard, data modeling, and creating reports and alerts.

BI software components are often integreated into other enterprise applications and data warehouse appliances. Standalone BI software is often sold through a software as a service (SaaS) delivery model targeted at a specific use case or industry.

Business Intelligence vs. Competitive Intelligence

BI and its subset, competitive intelligence (CI), are often 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.

Business Intelligence Architecture

A business intelligence architecture is a framework that consists of standards, best practices and policies designed to help analyze business data and make better businesses decisions.

The data components of business intelligence architecture are the data sources that both end users and people from different organizations access and analyze to meet their organization’s business requirements. Important factors that need to be considered when selecting a source of data include data currency, data quality and the level of detail in the data.

Business intelligence architectures may include both structured and unstructured data, as well as information from both internal and external sources.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.