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What is BI? Business intelligence definition and solutions

Mary K. Pratt | Sept. 4, 2017
Business intelligence (BI) leverages software and services to transform data into actionable intelligence that informs an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions.

So these organizations remain focused on fine-tuning and then maximizing their BI initiatives before moving up to more advanced analytics capabilities. 

Gorman says that’s one reason why the market for BI tools is still growing, as organizations continue to add capabilities in different functional areas to meet growing demand.

According to its Global Business Intelligence Market 2016-2020 report, published in January 2016, global technology research and advisory company Technavio forecast the global BI market to post a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 10 percent by 2020. 

The research study says increasing adoption of data analytics, data availability and implementation of cloud BI as the three major factors driving the market.

Second, organizations will continue to need an accurate understanding of past events and current states. That’s why, experts say, that even as organizations increasingly use advanced analytics to forecast the future, they continue to invest in their BI operations.

“You need both, because you need to know what’s going on,” Howson says. “It doesn’t matter if I can predict the future if I don’t know what’s going on right now.”

Additionally, organizations will continue to need BI capabilities to help them validate the analyses produced by more advanced analytics functions as they add those capabilities. 

“If we black-box BA tools and say don’t look at the reports, just change your price to this or increase your inventory there, we’re putting way too much trust into these BA tools,” Gorman says. “We have to sanity-check them, and I think the BI tools are a great tool to keep humans in the loop.” 


The future of business intelligence

Moving ahead, Howson says Gartner sees a third wave of disruption on the horizon, something the research firm calls “augmented analytics,” where machine learning is baked into the software and will guide users on their queries into the data.

“It will be BI and analytics, and it will be smart,” she says.

The combinations included in these software platforms will make each function more powerful individually and more valuable to the businesspeople using them, Gorman says.

“Someone will look at reports from, for example, last year’s sales — that’s BI — but they’ll also get predictions about next year’s sales — that’s business analytics — and then add to that a what-if capability: What would happen if we did X instead of Y,” Gorman says, explaining that software makers are moving to develop applications that will provide those functions within a single application rather than delivering them via multiple platforms as is now the case.

“Now the system delivers higher-value recommendations. It makes the decision-maker more efficient, more powerful and more accurate,” he adds.


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