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Data intelligence & reporting

Business Intelligence (BI) tools: Moving from theory to practice

data

By making it easy to analyze data and share the results, business intelligence tools promise improved performance and better quality decision-making, whilst promoting transparency and innovation. However, it is clear that these tools are still under-utilized or not delivering to their full potential. How can we move from creating a business intelligence strategy to putting it into effective practice?

Brand content manager, Opendatasoft
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Some 85% of decision-makers say that “the use of data is important to develop their organization”. Greater awareness of the importance of data to success, is leading more and more companies to deploy business intelligence (BI) tools to help them with better informed decision-making. Often these solutions are implemented at a corporate level, with tools included as part of wider productivity and collaboration suites provided by software vendors.

By making it easy to analyze data and share the results, business intelligence tools promise improved performance and better quality decision-making, whilst promoting transparency and innovation.

However, it is clear that these tools are still under-utilized or are not delivering to their full potential. Often they are too complex for the majority of employees to use, holding back adoption and undermining their benefits. How can we move from creating a business intelligence strategy to putting it into practice effectively? Our blog explains how to get better results from your BI program.

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What is business intelligence?

Business intelligence refers to the set of tools and methods used for data analysis. Through BI technology, companies are able to collect, analyze, transform, and share available data via reports and dashboards.

The goal is to drive a better understanding of current and future operations, while ensuring that decisions are more relevant and accurate. Ultimately, BI is essential to help organizations improve their performance.

There are a wide range of business intelligence tools available on the market, with new features being introduced to boost their effectiveness. Many tools are delivered as part of company software licenses, alongside word processing, email and spreadsheet software. This ongoing development is largely due to the increasing use of artificial intelligence, which requires powerful tools to analyze massive volumes of data and solve complex problems.

What functions do business intelligence solutions provide?

Business intelligence tools are deployed at the end of the data management process:

  • Collection: data is collected from different data sources (storage solutions, CRM, social networks, websites, business applications, etc.) and different formats such as email, video, and text files.
  • Integration: this involves integrating information from different datasets. Cleaning and consolidation are necessary to harmonize formats and ensure consistency of all data that is being analyzed.
  • Analysis: whether exploring the data, confirming or denying a hypothesis, analytics is an essential part of making better decisions.
  • Reporting: the primary objective of reporting – no matter whether it is through reports, visualizations or dashboards – is to transform data into formats that can be understood by everyone. This is particularly true for decision-makers who must make strategic choices based on the information collected, but who are not data experts.

What does a business intelligence tool do?

By helping organizations make better decisions, business intelligence tools can be applied to all industries and organizations, regardless of their size.

To give some examples, banks can use BI analysis to limit fraud, retailers can analyze consumer behavior to provide better products and public sector organizations can improve the services they deliver to citizens by analyzing their performance through BI tools.

Whether it is to improve internal processes, optimize competitive advantage or respond to customer needs, there are numerous applications, making BI key to organizational success.

What are the benefits of BI solutions?

The main objective of business intelligence is to improve the decision-making process by focusing on objective facts, rather than on hunches. BI solutions help companies make more informed and relevant decisions:

  • Faster: because data is available in real-time and can be easily understood, data-driven decisions can be made quickly to seize opportunities.
  • Improved strategic planning: BI tools allow you to predict future trends through data insights. Through “What if” queries, companies can test different hypotheses by taking into account all available information (competitor activities, legislative changes, consumer behavior, etc.). These different scenarios then allow decision makers to select the best option for future planning.
  • Identify problems and opportunities: within dashboards and reports, BI analysts can set alerts when particular events occur, such as a drop in sales or the withdrawal of a competitor from the market. This allows them to react quickly to limit risks or access business opportunities.
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Even though business intelligence is absolutely essential for organizations, it is not yet sufficiently democratized. Here are the main reasons why:

Insufficient resources within organizations

The effectiveness of a BI strategy depends above all on the ability to share data and make it understandable to everyone, whether they are data experts or not. For this to happen, it is essential to have the right resources in place: trained staff, BI reporting tools, and a clear strategy. However, this is not yet the case for many companies. Our latest Odoxa survey reports that only 31% of decision makers have the resources to support data-driven practices.

Many organizations are using business intelligence software, but frequently they require specific skills to get the best out of them. That means they cannot be used by the majority of employees, slowing down the ability to make decisions.

Hard to use tools

Many organizations have invested in business intelligence software, but frequently these tools are complex and require specific skills to get the best out of them. That means they cannot be used by the majority of employees, slowing down the ability to make decisions. This undermines data democratization as it prevents everyone within the organization having the ability to make fast, effective real-time data-driven decisions.

No clear data governance

While organizations have enormous volumes of data, many do not manage or govern it effectively. In many cases attempts at data government programs have not delivered the policies and frameworks to effectively manage data.

This lack of clear data governance policies impact decision making by preventing access to complete data and removing trust in the information that analysts and managers receive.

As part of this lack of a strategic approach to data BI tools are frequently under-used because organizations have not identified high value-added uses for their data.

Limited data accessibility

Data needs to be available to all, in ways and formats that don’t require specialist skills. There needs to be a data-driven culture in place where all employees are confident in handling data and have the ability to access it seamlessly, through the right BI tools.

However, in the majority of organizations, data is only directly accessible to a limited number of people, namely analysts and IT specialists, rather than the majority of employees.

This means that data analysts are spending their time creating dashboards for different business units rather than being able to focus on tasks with added value. They can act as a bottleneck between data and decision-makers. Instead, it is important to provide data in formats, such as visualizations, in a faster, more automated way through self-service portals that enable greater use across the organization.

A lack of data openness

The democratization of data involves sharing it with customers or partners, not just employees, but more than half of companies keep their data in-house. However, transparent data sharing is what encourages the creation of new uses, collaboration, and innovation.

To gain full value from data, simply implementing high-performance, complex business intelligence tools that can only be used by experts is clearly insufficient. Instead companies must:

  • Spread a data culture throughout the organization
  • Create internal data portals to facilitate access for all employees
  • Make it easy for everyone to use and reuse data, without requiring in-depth BI skills
  • Identify high-value uses for data and data analysis
  • Share data internally, and externally.
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With the proliferation of data and advances in technology, organizations have everything they need to create new uses for data, increase competitiveness and collaborate to meet today’s societal challenges.

However, for this to happen, the insights that data provide must be accessible to all, both internally and externally, without having to rely on expert intermediaries. Many current BI tools hold back data sharing as they are too complex to be used by the majority of users.

The Opendatasoft platform is the essential data experience layer to integrate into your technology stack, enabling you to:

  • Connect all your data and BI tools with our 80 connectors
  • Enrich information with external datasets (either open or third party data)
  • Create an internal data portal and manage your users’ access rights
  • Create data visualizations or integrate those of other tools, allowing users to interact with each dashboard through drill-down filters and search features without having to learn how to use complex BI tools;
  • Offer download and reuse options via APIs to allow your users to create their own uses from your data.

These different functionalities allow you and your employees to create high-impact data experiences that enhance the value of data and democratize its use. By adding a data experience layer to your stack your investment in business intelligence tools delivers real ROI and unlocks greater business value.

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