The core of Business Intelligence is reporting. It doesn’t matter if you are building a BI solution to provide end-user what-if analysis capabilities, embracing the latest capabilities in predictive analytics, or just want to provide managers with scheduled reports of past performance. It is all the process of collecting data from various data sources, combining and transforming and extending that data into datasets of information, and rendering those datasets in a meaningful way for end-user consumption. So, Business Intelligence helps companies by transforming raw data into information in a context that helps end-users utilize that information to make better, informed decisions. A more succinct way of saying that is Business Intelligence helps companies by turning data into insights and action.

A survey of over 2,600 business intelligence users by shows that survey respondents consider the top four benefits realized by BI to be:

  1. Faster reporting, analysis or planning
  2. More accurate reporting, analysis or planning
  3. Better business decisions
  4. Improved data quality

Search the internet for why companies use Business Intelligence and you’ll find that some form of Reporting (faster report development, more comprehensive reports, more accurate reports, etc.) is usually cited as a major benefit of using Business Intelligence. The tools associated with Business Intelligence (Power BI, SSRS and SSAS from Microsoft, Jaspersoft and Spotfire from TIBCO, and the WebFocus suite of tools from Information Builders are the toolsets we focus on) are great for quickly developing, securing and deploying reporting solutions–whether that is tabular reports, dashboards, KPIs, data visualizations, or some form of what-if analysis. But the old saying still applies “Garbage in / Garbage Out”, if the data you are reporting on is suspect, then your Business Intelligence solution will fail. That’s why a key part of any Business Intelligence solution is the gathering, cleansing, transforming, enhancing, and formatting of raw data into a reliable and trusted repository, usually a Data Warehouse or Data Mart, that serves data to Business Intelligence reporting tools. You can see this reflected in the second top benefit identified by the respondents to the survey referenced above, i.e. “More accurate reporting, analysis or planning”.

The tools to perform Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) operations, Data Cleansing and Master Data Management functions are the second part of any robust Business Intelligence solution. They may be less visible to the end-user but are no less important to the success of any Business Intelligence initiative.

Business Intelligence can help companies by establishing a trusted, verified, conformed and organized source of data across the organization that all users agree contains the only source of data that accurately describes the organization. And by providing the tools to quickly report, and explore the data, Business Intelligence can provide meaningful and accurate information to end-users, allowing them to make better informed and more timely business decisions.

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