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Business Intelligence

What Is Business Intelligence?

January 21, 2021

You have probably heard the term “Business Intelligence” before. 

But what exactly does it mean and why should you care about it?

Here’s what we are going to discuss in this article:

  • What is business intelligence?
  • Why is business intelligence important?
  • How can business intelligence benefit private businesses, public sector organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)?

Let’s get straight into it...

What Is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence (BI) is the process of collecting and analyzing data:

  • Collecting data.

BI software gathers all the relevant information and presents it in an easy to understand way. 
This can range from simple dashboards that pull data from different sources together to sophisticated text analytics tools that use AI to make sense of vast quantities of text.

  • Analyzing data.

BI analysts go over the data and extract actionable insights from it.
It’s worth noting that while the former is done by most online businesses in some way (e.g. Google Analytics), the latter is often not given the attention it deserves.

There’s a reason why BI analysts command a respectable salary. Teasing out actionable insights from business data is not easy. It’s a skill that requires patience, attention to detail, and an understanding of statistics.

Of course, not every organization can afford to hire a BI analyst, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get value from all the data that you have collected.

Why Is Business Intelligence Important?

Business intelligence is important because it helps organizations make the best decisions.

In this context, “best decision” means “a decision that helps the organization to achieve its goal”, whatever that goal may be.

Let’s take a look at how BI can help private businesses, governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) achieve their goals...

Business Intelligence for the Private Sector

Business intelligence can help businesses improve their bottom lines.

For instance:

Let’s say a SaaS (Sofware-as-a-Service) company wants to increase its annual revenue by 25% in a year.

Consolidating the existing data with BI software and then having a BI analyst analyze it could help them:

  • Understand their target audience better.

  • Create a marketing campaign that truly resonates with their potential customers.

...and more.

Of course, all that can be done without business intelligence, but then the team would have to rely on their gut feelings instead of cold hard data, which makes it more hit-and-miss. 

Business Intelligence for the Public Sector

The public’s expectations have been set by tech companies that people interact with on a regular basis (Google, Amazon, etc.).

It’s not surprising that citizens want the same convenience and ease of use when interacting with public sector organizations. 

Back in 2018 Accenture surveyed 6,000 citizens aged 18+ from Australia, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Singapore to learn more about citizens’ expectations regarding government services.

Image Source

They discovered that a staggering 86% of respondents viewed digital delivery of public services as equally or more important than the traditional public services delivery methods.

44% of them cited personalized services as their top priority when interacting with the government.

Respondents were also enthusiastic about specific innovations such as:

  • AI-enabled chatbots for learning about visa requirements.
  • Using AI to speed up service eligibility decisions.
  • Using VR to create immersive learning environments in educational institutions.

…and more.

Of course, all that is easier said than done, since implementing these technologies on a massive scale requires a lot of money.  How can governments decide what to invest in?

That’s where business intelligence comes in.

It can help governments to:

  • Understand citizens’ needs better.
  • Improve public services.
  • Identify and prioritize technological innovations that will have the most impact.

There’s no denying that the public sector is lagging behind the private sector in terms of technology and that governments need to bring it to the modern age...

And that is much easier to do with BI.

Business Intelligence for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Effective altruism is an increasingly popular approach to charitable giving.

It’s all about answering one question:  

“How can we use our resources to help others the most?”

Business intelligence can help any non-governmental organization practice effective altruism by using the resources at their disposal more effectively.

It allows NGOs to:

  • Consolidate scattered data.
  • Prioritize activities that have the biggest impact.
  • Share their results with existing and potential donors. 

Obviously, fundraising becomes much easier once you can show measurable results, so implementing BI in an NGO might help to kick-start a virtuous “results -> cash flow -> results” cycle. 

Ultimately, NGOs and their donors want to make a difference. 

Business intelligence can help them do that. 

Conclusion

Business intelligence can benefit any type of organization.

Whether you own a private business, work in the public sector, or run an NGO, gathering and analyzing data can help you make better decisions.

So pick software that meets your needs best, then either hire a BI analyst or learn the basics of BI yourself. Remember, outsourcing is also a solid option.

Just don’t let valuable insights remain buried in all that data.

Header photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Published by

Anne Delgoulet

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