Business intelligence (BI) tools refer to software applications that allow users to analyze their organization’s data quickly and cost-effectively. The term “business intelligence” was coined by Bill Inmon, in his 1991 publication “Building the Data Warehouse.” Though these BI tools have been in existence for many years, recent advances in cloud computing have made it easy for consumers to access this technology without investing in hardware or professional IT consulting services.
To make strategic business decisions and gain a competitive advantage, an organization must have a clear idea of market trends, customer needs, and consumer opinions.
There are a variety of online business intelligence tools using which you can access numerous ways to collect business insights, here are some of the widely recommended methodologies widely used to gather business intelligence.
The first step in acquiring business intelligence is data collection. There are various methods to collect data, which can provide reliable information for statistical analysis and help an organization to make data-driven decisions.
Web/Online surveys – Online Survey remains the most reliable, economical, and widely used method to reach a larger audience for data collection. As it is complicated to create, distribute, and analyze the survey results manually, most of the researchers depend on survey maker tools to get the job done. The major benefits of using an online business intelligence gathering platform are a real-time analysis of the results, cost-efficiency, ease of use, and flexibility.
For example – A company wants to understand the level of customer satisfaction with their customer service department and also wants an opinion from customers on how to become more customer-centric. The company decides to conduct a customer service survey using a business intelligence platform for gathering valuable information about the staff, product, and the overall quality of service provided to them. The results achieved through the survey can be used to gauge Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), or even Customer Effort Score (CES).
All these results contribute to analyzing what customers feel about the current status of the service, areas that need improvement, what customers expect, and what their necessities are. All these insights enabled the company to incur some changes, implement strategies, and initiate employee engagement ensuring a successful journey to become a more customer-centric organization.
In-person surveys – In-person surveys are face-to-face interviews. For years, it has been the most effective method of collecting the most accurate information. As this approach to gathering business intelligence relies on direct communication, observing body traits, behavior, and reactions of the respondent also play a vital role. Suppose if certain questions make the interviewee uncomfortable, disinterested, agitated, or frown it is better to skip those questions. In addition to that, interviewees’ body language, tone of speech, and mannerisms also determine if the feedback he/she is giving is right or wrong.
In-person surveys are a costlier method compared to other methods used for collecting business intelligence. Additionally, the interviewer needs to be experienced having exceptional expertise in observing and analyzing people.
For example – Conducting face-to-face interviews of employees to evaluate their immediate supervisors is a common practice amongst many organizations. Although, the majority of these organizations have a detailed questionnaire ready, sometimes using a supervisor evaluation survey template questionnaire to gather accurate information and promote a better work culture is a good option.
Mail surveys – This is an age-old traditional method used to gather information from a larger set of audiences. As technology has reached every nook and corner of the world this method to gather business intelligence has become distinct. Moreover, there are a few other factors like time-consumption, expensive, error-prone, and low response rate contributed to lower adoption of this method. Online surveys have quickly emerged as a better substitute for this method. However, in geographies where tablets, computers, or laptops are still inaccessible, mail surveys are the best way of collecting actionable business intelligence from them.
For example – The Government wanted to survey for understanding public opinion about the use of plastic bags and was interested to evaluate their awareness regarding government initiative to abolish them. They mailed the use of plastic bags survey to the selected audience from different localities for gathering business intelligence for that area, and accordingly corrective measures were taken by the Government to eradicate the use of plastic bags.
Telephone surveys – Telephone surveys are a little costlier than online surveys but much inexpensive compared to face-to-face surveys. Such a method has a few drawbacks like the availability of the respondent or even establishing a friendly equation with the respondent.
For example – A church wanted to survey to understand why parishioners attend church and evaluate if their spiritual needs are being met by the church. A church survey template enabled them to conduct telephonic surveys with all the parishioners and get reliable information to help them understand their opinions.
A questionnaire is a set of questions used for research purposes which can be qualitative as well as quantitative in nature. A questionnaire may or may not be in the form of a survey, however, a survey always has a questionnaire.
For example – An HR of a company wanted to conduct an exit interview to find out the opinion of an employee for his time spent at the organization. They used elaborative and highly engaging Exit interview questions to gauge the opinions and record the feedback of the employees who decided to leave. These insights were then used by the company to formulate its employee retention strategies for lowering the attrition rate.
Polls are a little different than surveys and this approach usually consists of only one question. The response rate for polls is extremely high, as it is very easy to answer and it takes very little time.
For example – The best example for a poll would be election polls. Polls are conducted to find out which party is favored and preferred by voters that would govern the specified area in a particular term.
Forms are a type of survey itself, however, forms are generally used to collect specific information from a respondent in each field such as age, income, gender, etc., unlike surveys which are used to gather generalized data such as opinions, attitudes, values, etc.
For example – A bank needs specific information from its customers to open a bank account. In such a scenario, a form is provided to the customer to collect specific information required by the bank to open an account.
Step 2 – Analysis
This is the step where all the data comes under a single platform. A Business Intelligence software will enable you to collect as well as analyze data with advanced analytical tools embedded in the same software. Analyzing the data collected through various methods helps an organization to understand their customer’s opinions and find out areas needing improvement. The software allows you to compare scores (such as NPS, CES, CSAT) for varied periods and also among departments. You can use the same BI Software to analyze the data under advanced pretexts such as Conjoint Analysis, Maxdiff Analysis, Trend Analysis, Text and Sentiment Analysis, and many more. This way, you would get a solid snapshot of where your organization stands among your customers at any given time.
For example – The Hospitality industry must measure customer experience and satisfaction on an ongoing basis. By analyzing and monitoring customer satisfaction scores and NPS scores consistently, the organization can improve its customer experience and become more customer-centric to achieve higher revenues and customer loyalty.
Step 3 – Reporting and presentation
After analysis, the next step is to understand what the metrics mean. This step is the most important, as the wrong interpretation of the data can send your organization down a cliff. Conversion into visual infographics can sometimes make it easier for a person to understand. Such understanding will enable the organization to find answers to the most pressing business, operational, and marketing questions.
These steps will help you to start using business intelligence software effectively, however, this is not the final step. An organization needs to continuously monitor and analyze real-time data to stay in the competition and keep meeting the ever-changing customer needs or even figure out the next best steps for the future. Following this path to utilize business intelligence effectively will provide an organization to spend money and time more wisely and tackle future goals, needs, and trends successfully.
Why use business intelligence tools?
For starters, data discovery, which used to be limited to the expertise of advanced analytics specialists, is now something everyone can do using these tools. And not only that, these tools give you the insights you need to achieve things like growth, resolve urgent issues, collect all your data in one place, forecast future outcomes and so much more.
In this article, we will explain the top 15 Business Intelligence tools in 2021 and hopefully put you on the right path towards selecting a tool fit for your business.
Keep in mind: these business intelligence tools all vary in robustness, integration capabilities, ease-of-use (from a technical perspective), and of course, pricing.
1. SAP Business Objects
SAP Business Objects is a business intelligence software that offers comprehensive reporting, analysis, and interactive data visualization. The platform focuses heavily on categories such as Customer Experience (CX) and CRM, digital supply chain, ERP, and more. What’s nice about this platform is the self-service, role-based dashboards it offers to enable users to build their dashboards and applications. SAP is a robust software intended for all roles (IT, end uses, and management) and offers tons of functionalities in one platform. The complexity of the product, however, does drive up the price so be prepared for that.
Datapine is an all-in-one business intelligence platform that facilitates the complex process of data analytics even for non-technical users. Thanks to a comprehensive self-service analytics approach, datapine’s solution enables data analysts and business users alike to easily integrate different data sources, perform advanced data analysis, build interactive business dashboards and generate actionable business insights.
4. SAS Business Intelligence
While SAS’ most popular offering is its advanced predictive analytics, it also provides a great business intelligence platform. This well-seasoned self-service tool, which was founded back in the 1970s, allows users to leverage data and metrics to make informed decisions about their business. Using their set of APIs, users are provided with lots of customization options, and SAS ensures high-level data integration and advanced analytics & reporting. They also have a great text analytics feature to give you more contextual insights into your data.
5. Yellowfin BI
Yellowfin BI is a business intelligence tool and ‘end-to-end’ analytics platform that combines visualization, machine learning, and collaboration. You can also easily filter through tons of data with intuitive filtering (e.g. checkboxes and radio buttons) as well open up dashboards just about anywhere (thanks to this tool’s flexibility inaccessibility (mobile, webpage, etc.). The nice thing about this BI tool is that you can easily take dashboards and visualizations to the next level using a no-code/low code development environment.
A product of Qlik, QlikSense is a complete data analytics platform and business intelligence tool. You can use QlikSense from any device at any time. The user interface of QlikSense is optimized for touchscreen, which makes it a very popular BI tool. It offers a one-of-a-kind associative analytics engine, sophisticated AI, and a high-performance cloud platform, making it all the more attractive. An interesting feature within this platform is its Search & Conversational Analytics which enables a faster and easier way to ask questions and discover new insights by way of natural language.
7. Zoho Analytics
Zoho Analytics is great BI tool for in-depth reporting and data analysis. This business intelligence tool has automatic data syncing and can be scheduled periodically. You can easily build a connector by using the integration APIs. Blend and merge data from different sources and create meaningful reports. With an easy editor, you create personalized reports and dashboards enabling you to zoom into the important details. It also offers a unique commenting section in the sharing options which is great for collaboration purposes.
Sisense is a user-friendly data analytics and business intelligence tool that allows anyone within your organization to manage large and complex datasets as well as analyze and visualize this data without your IT department getting involved. It lets you bring together data from a wide variety of sources as well including Adwords, Google Analytics, and Salesforce. Not to mention, because it uses in-chip technology, data is processed quite quickly compared to other tools. Thi platform is even recognized as a leading cloud analytics platform by various industry experts such as Gartner, G2, and Dresner.
9. Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a web-based business analytics tool suite that excels in data visualization. It allows users to identify trends in real-time and has brand new connectors that allow you to up your game in campaigns. Because it’s web-based, Microsoft Power BI can be accessed from pretty much anywhere. This software also allows users to integrate their apps and deliver reports and real-time dashboards.
Business intelligence systems are used by companies to make strategic decisions for the future of businesses. For example, they can help you know where to open new stores in your geographical region. Business intelligence is also the foundation for data warehousing platforms. A data warehouse holds historical information on past company performance, customer bases, addresses, etc. The data stored here inform management on buying habits, profit margins, etc.