What is Business Intelligence? How it Works, Best Practices, Tips, and More

Definition of Business Intelligence

Business intelligence is an umbrella term that refers to the tools, processes, and infrastructure used by companies to identify, analyze, and access key business information. Companies today leverage business intelligence software to pinpoint and extract valuable insights from the large volumes of data they store.

Business intelligence tools and systems are used with both internal and external data sources to glean information like competitive intelligence and market trends as well as internal insights like common customer and industry pain points, key stakeholders, and commonalities in lost opportunities.

In recent years, business intelligence space has shifted from an area owned primarily by IT to a core business function. In the past, complex reports and data analysis were key elements of any business intelligence initiative. Today however, there are a range of intuitive and accessible business intelligence solutions available which afford users – from all across the company – the opportunity to log in and access dashboards and analytics that turn raw data into real business insights.

How Business Intelligence Works

Business intelligence software provides business leaders with the information they need to make more informed business decisions. Business intelligence is used as a foundation for strategic decision-making eliminating as much of the guesswork and gut-feeling from the decision-making process as possible. The data sources used to build business intelligence include customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce.com, supply chain information, sales performance dashboards, marketing analytics, contact center call data and metadata i.e. information describing data. Business intelligence applications help companies to bring all these disparate sources into a single unified view providing real time reporting, dashboards, and analysis.

Examples of Business Intelligence

Business intelligence is used to drive decision-making from tactical everyday tasks all the way to key strategic business decision. The following are some examples of business intelligence.

  • Contact and Interaction Analytics: Customer interaction analytics are a key business intelligence initiative in many call centers. Interaction analytics are used to monitor 100% of the calls made and automatically identify key audio patterns to highlight winning behaviors and phrases. Business leaders are then presented with real time access to call performance and have data that shows how top performers are having successful calls. The other side of that is interaction analytics will also identify the speech patterns and phrases used in calls that did not result in a successful outcome alerting you to issues and behaviors that need to be changed. A further benefit here is compliance – by monitoring and analyzing 100% of your calls, you can ensure appropriate language is used by your agents.
  • Closed Deal Analysis: Another important business intelligence initiative is to perform some sales win/loss analysis. Many CRM systems come with built in analytics which can help you to create detailed reports on past deals. These reports can highlight commonalities between past deals both won and lost. So you should be able to highlight reasons why deals are or are not closing be it geography, sex, age of the consumer etc. If you are selling to another business maybe you should see which stakeholders you have most success with – does the deal have a better chance of closing when the head of marketing is involved than if you are dealing with a VP Sales? Closed deal analysis can answer key questions like this and help you hone your go-to-market approach.
  • Website Traffic: One of the most common business intelligence tools is probably Google Analytics which provides some great insights on website visitors. Website owners can set up reports and email alerts to see data like time spent on page, referral page, and the type of traffic i.e. whether it was organic through Google and other search engines or through a paid advertisement. Google Analytics and other similar tools can also show you the visitor’s web domain helping you see which companies are going onto your site and which pages they are interacting with. Not every website visitor is going to fill out a contact form. Business intelligence tools like Google Analytics provide you with invaluable data on anonymous visitor data and also help you see how each of your web pages are performing.

Business Intelligence Best Practices

As you weigh up the various business intelligence solutions, there are a number of best practices you should keep in mind.

  • Ease of Use: Ensure the solution you provide your team with is intuitive and easy to use. If the solution is difficult to use, adoption rates are going to suffer and your business intelligence initiative will not have the desired outcome.
  • Implementation: You should weigh up how long any tool takes to implement. Consider factors like user training as you assess time to value.
  • Integration: Consider where your new solution fits in with your existing technology stack. How does it integrate with the tools your team already uses to do their jobs? Is integration an out of the box capability or is it something you are going to have to customize? Being clear on these questions will help you choose the business intelligence solution most suited to your company’s needs

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