Business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help corporate executives, business managers and other end users make more informed business decisions. BI encompasses a variety of tools, applications and methodologies that enable organizations to collect data from internal systems and external sources, prepare it for analysis, develop and run queries against the data, and create reports, dashboards and data visualizations to make the analytical results available to corporate decision makers as well as operational workers.
The potential benefits of business intelligence programs include accelerating and improving decision making; optimizing internal business processes; increasing operational efficiency; driving new revenues; and gaining competitive advantages over business rivals. BI systems can also help companies identify market trends and spot business problems that need to be addressed.
Business intelligence data typically is stored in a data warehouse or smaller data marts that hold subsets of a company’s information. In addition, Hadoop systems are increasingly being used within BI architectures as repositories or landing pads for BI and analytics data, especially for unstructured data, log files, sensor data and other types of big data. Before it’s used in BI applications, raw data from different source systems must be integrated, consolidated and cleansed using data integration and data quality tools to ensure that users are analyzing accurate and consistent information.
In addition to BI managers, business intelligence teams generally include a mix of BI architects, BI developers, business analysts and data management professionals; business users often are also included to represent the business side and make sure its needs are met in the BI development process. To help with that, a growing number of organizations are replacing traditional waterfall development with Agile BI and data warehousing approaches that use Agile software development techniques to break up BI projects into small chunks and deliver new functionality to end users on an incremental and iterative basis. Doing so can enable companies to put BI features into use more quickly and to refine or modify development plans as business needs change or new requirements emerge and take priority over earlier ones.