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The evolution of Business Intelligence

Once seen as the exclusive territory of larger organisations, Business Intelligence, or BI as it’s more commonly known, is now making itself at home with businesses of all shapes and sizes. With more and more businesses adopting BI solutions, those who have yet to investigate the benefits that a good BI system can bring will soon find them themselves at a disadvantage. In today's economic climate it's very easy to get left behind as competitors go from strength to strength. So, for those businesses who are yet to get with the BI programme, we take a look at what all the fuss is about.

The humble beginnings of Business Intelligence (BI)

The term 'Business Intelligence' actually dates back to 1865. It was first used in a business publication to describe a businessman who'd gained profit by getting hold of and acting upon information about his particular business environment before his competitors. While things have obviously moved on since then, the central idea of BI remains the same. There's still an intrinsic collation and strategic use of business information to gain a competitive advantage.

BI systems of today evolved from the decision support systems that were developed during the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that standalone BI systems started to become more widespread, gradually turning into the comprehensive BI solutions that are making such a difference to businesses across the globe today.

Modern Business Intelligence

In its current form, BI is the umbrella term for the tools, technologies, processes and software used to consolidate and analyse a business’s data, presenting it as real-time actionable business insight. What this does is turn the organisation into a data-driven business, with intelligent, informed and in-depth insight underpinning decision-making right across the company for the ultimate in business agility.

With the right BI solution in place, businesses can automatically collect data from a variety of external and internal sources, with the in-built ability to immediately analyse this data to create ‘intelligence’ that simply couldn’t be derived from any single set of data. The resulting insight is presented in a meaningful and accessible way, helping decision-makers to pinpoint the relevant information to underpin rapid, robust decision-making. It’s this powerful combination of data gathering, analysis and reporting that makes BI solutions such a valuable tool for any business, providing a comprehensive understanding of historical, current and future operations to fully inform strategy.

Benefitting from modern BI

In today’s digital economy, BI solutions are more valuable than ever before. We’re all operating in the era of Big Data, where the volumes of data that businesses are dealing with on a daily basis seem to increase by the second. With more complex data than ever before now an unavoidable part of doing business, the ability to assess and analyse all this data manually or with disparate, legacy systems is simply not possible. BI solutions make the most of Big Data, interpreting the information and turning it into instant insight, making poorly informed decisions a thing of the past.

Because BI systems have the ability to consolidate information from multiple sources, they break down the silos of information that can be such a stumbling block for businesses who are striving to achieve a comprehensive, real-time view of their organisation. By amalgamating all business information into one central system, analysing this information to achieve a single version of the truth, BI tools give unparalleled oversight and insight into the business, while providing the ability to drill down into data streams for maximum transparency and traceability. It’s this streamlining of information from across the business that improves business agility further still, putting the right information in the right hands at exactly the right time.

The most advanced BI solutions are able to automate tasks such as weekly sales forecasts and reports, gathering customer insights, and report distribution, saving time and money and leaving employees more time to focus on more value-add, strategic activities. This level of automation not only means real efficiency savings for the business, but increased accuracy too, without the inevitable errors that occur when manually pulling together information for reporting purposes. The foresight afforded by BI systems is a game-changer, too, with predictive analytics helping to pre-empt trends and issues before they occur, removing the need for guesswork and resulting in more accurate, strategic forecasting to support proactive business decisions.

With more data than ever now part and parcel of doing business, BI solutions have really come into their own, representing the only way that businesses can make sense of the massive amounts of information flowing in and out of their business every day. The best BI systems out there can turn this data into a real competitive advantage, revealing new depths of business insight to speed-up informed decision making, optimising business agility and maximising performance in an increasingly competitive data-driven marketplace.

For more information on how an intelligent Business Intelligence solution could make the difference to your business, get in touch with Sapphire Systems.

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