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What is business intelligence?

business intelligence

Business intelligence is the process of collecting, analyzing, and presenting actionable information to help executives make informed business decisions. Business intelligence is a technology-driven process, and there are numerous methodologies, applications, and tools that allow companies organizations to collect data from internal systems and external sources, clean and prepare it for analysis, develop and run queries against it, and then provide dashboards and visualizations to make the results available to stakeholders.

Access to data, and particularly customer data, remains the most important priority for companies who want to understand who their customers are, their customers’ needs, and all of their interactions with the company, so the customer experience can be positively influenced. As digital transformation is the driving force of change in the market, organizations must now differentiate themselves through great customer experiences with faster service, products aligned to customers’ needs at the time they want it, and delivery through customers’ preferred channel. The way companies will do this through intimate knowledge of their customers and prospects; in other words, the insights gleaned through business intelligence.

This is difficult to do, however, due to the large number of (fragmented) systems, frequency and speed of change in those systems, which make it difficult for companies to get the most out of their customer data. The complex and ever-changing systems landscape results in significant time and effort to transform, process, manage access to, and secure customer information, presenting barriers to leveraging that data.


Why collecting business intelligence is difficult

There are numerous challenges to collecting business intelligence. For example, the sheer amount of data that could be used to provide business intelligence is staggering. 80% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years and the amount of data available today will increase 8 fold in the next 2 years. Plus, many of the consumers are also producers of customer data, and raw data produced by those consumers is also transformed and copied into another location, creating an added layer of complexity around what data to use when.

In addition, a 2016 survey of data scientists found that 19% of their time is spent on collecting data, and 60% of their time cleansing and organizing data according to the same 2016 survey of data scientists. When there is a great deal of manual effort required for data transformation, the data becomes stale.

These tasks are not only time-consuming, but also the least enjoyable part of data scientists’ jobs. Time spent on data collection and transformation makes it difficult to conduct meaningful analysis to achieve insights and actions. There needs to be a timely, accurate way to collect the necessary data for business intelligence without spending excessive time and resources to cleanse and transform it.

The benefits of a business intelligence strategy

Companies have multiple touchpoints with their customers — across multiple channels and business groups — which produce different data points. Many companies collect customer data from independent third-parties. As multiple source systems produce customer data, enterprises commonly launch an enterprise-wide initiative to build a 360-degree view of the customer (or a “customer 360”) so that consumers can have a unified, aggregated source of customer data they need to draw insights and plans of action from business intelligence.

With an effective customer 360, businesses can experience the following benefits:

  • Operational efficiency by automatically aggregating and delivering relevant customer information to the business at the moment of interaction.
  • Greater customer loyalty by giving the business a deeper understanding of who the customer is, therefore enabling the business to tailor its interactions precisely to what the customer wants and needs
  • Revenue growth by providing business intelligence on customers’ purchase and interaction patterns, preferences and behaviors have changed so it can anticipate new products and services, and up-sell and cross-sell appropriately.

But because there are multiple sources of data that feed into business intelligence systems, there needs to be a way to unite them. Learn how APIs can create an effective way of gathering business intelligence by reading our whitepaper Building a single customer view using APIs.

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