What is business intelligence?

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Business intelligence (BI) refers to specific processes and technological tools that extract valuable insights from a company’s data and help its executives, project managers, and other stakeholders make more informed decisions. Organizations may leverage BI platforms when looking to identify new growth opportunities, weed out inefficient practices, cut costs, and many other use cases.

Management consultants discuss business intelligence tools.

BI is prevalent across most industries, including healthcare, finance, government, retail, and manufacturing. Basically, if a company has a critical mass of data generated and collected by its IT systems, it can apply BI solutions to transform that often raw and disorganized information into reports, dashboards, and analytics that are much easier to parse.

With an online Bachelor of Science (BS) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), you can pursue positions related to BI, including management consultant and business intelligence analyst. The online bachelor’s degrees in management provides the right preparation for a BI career.

BI up close: How it works and what it’s used for in the real world

What do company leaders need to make good decisions about operations? Most of the time, they seek easily summarized reports, visual aids, and data points — all of which business intelligence tools can deliver.

A BI platform is a specialized software suite that provides key functionality such as:

  • Pulling data from multiple sources, such as data warehouses and various systems of record (e.g., ERPs). Major BI tools such as Tableau and Microsoft Power BI can be integrated with everything from relational databases like Amazon Aurora to more basic tools like Excel spreadsheets.
  • Performing online analytical processing (OLAP). This allows for fast, optimized navigation of databases and the structuring of data into cubes that may correspond to different time periods, product lines, or other dimensions.
  • Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve BI performance over time. In particular, AI and machine learning help with automation and scalability, which are crucial in light of the enormous size of many datasets.
  • Creating compelling data visualizations, such as dashboards, that are the products of OLAP and the other processes. These visualizations can succinctly summarize complex sets of information, revealing clear trends and takeaways.

If there is a definitive feature of effective BI solutions, it’s this ability to produce useful dashboards and visualizations. For most people, visual data is more memorable than written equivalents. Plus, it can be analyzed more quickly, which is a pivotal advantage for executives who may not have time to read a lengthy, highly technical report.

A well-designed BI dashboard, built around relevant key performance indicators and designed with adequate input from end users and stakeholders, can deliver powerful insights. Here are a few examples of what such a visualization might offer insights into:

Customer service metrics at a call center

Call center facilities traditionally have high turnover rates, due to the stressful and often unpredictable nature of the work. A BI-produced dashboard could provide crucial insight into first call resolution rates, average time in queue, and call abandonment, all of which in turn could help identify areas for improvement and provide an impetus for management to hire more agents or integrate new customer service software to make their lives easier.

Internal productivity at a healthcare facility

It’s common for health providers to measure their own internal service-level agreements and metrics, in addition to complying with external regulations. For example, they might track the success of physicians and other staff in recommending smoke cessation to patients, based on each patient’s answers to a questionnaire. With the help of a BI platform, they could analyze responses to the questionnaire over a designated period and see where there was room for improvement.

Multi-channel marketing campaigns

Modern advertising and marketing can be complex. The programmatic ads market alone offers many choices for how to reach consumers and what inventory to show them. In this context, it’s important to know what is and isn’t working, and a BI platform can help. Marketing teams can set up a dashboard that charts how much time and money were spent generating certain leads, what channels and ads were most effective, and how many impressions pay-per-click advertisements generated.

How you can prepare for a career in BI

These use cases represent just a sliver of the possibilities when it comes to BI. You can unlock the full transformative potential of BI by earning your online Bachelor of Science from UAB in information systems, management, or marketing. Across all degrees, you will have the benefit of working with award-winning faculty, having support staff available 24/7, and studying within the AACSB-accredited Collat School of Business.

The online Bachelor of Science in Management can prepare you for a BI career. Its curriculum includes courses in strategic management and organizational law, which help understand how to implement BI strategies across an entire organization. With this degree, you will be prepared for positions such as management consultant and operations manager.

To learn more, reach out to an enrollment advisor at UAB.

Recommended Reading:

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