What is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence involves using software to analyze data so companies can make informed decisions. Today’s companies have access to a wealth of information about their customers. They have so much data that they need computer software to help them discover trends that lead to actionable insights.

Think of "business intelligence" as an umbrella term that includes all of the information, processes, and software that businesses rely on to make data-driven decisions. Examples of business intelligence can include multiple sources of data, the tools professionals use to sort and analyze the data, and the visualization apps that turn analyzed data into charts that managers can easily understand.

How Does Business Intelligence Benefit Companies?

Business intelligence as a service can give companies numerous benefits, including:

  • Increased user satisfaction by identifying features and products customers want most
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • More innovation opportunities

Companies of all sizes can benefit from business intelligence. As long as they have the right tools, anyone can use information to make data-driven decisions.

Recent Advances in Business Intelligence

Advances in data analysis technology have led to several improvements in business intelligence. A survey of nearly 2,900 business intelligence professionals shows that some of the most recent advancements include:

  • Real-time analytics that let businesses respond quickly to new data.
  • Data visualization tools that make it easier for business leaders to make informed choices without learning a lot of technical skills.
  • Data warehouse modernization that makes information more secure and reliable.
  • Self-service business intelligence tools that let employees and managers perform no-code and low-code tasks.
  • Data governance that improves security and makes information easier to analyze.
  • Transformation tools that can turn diverse data into a single format.

As business intelligence and its tools become more advanced, companies will discover new ways to harness the value of data. Companies, therefore, need to make sure that they stay at the forefront of BI technology so their competitors don’t have a significant advantage.

What Are the Most Popular Business Intelligence Tools?

Business intelligence tools fall into several categories. The following options offer some of the most sophisticated, user-friendly features available in their classifications.

Data Visualization

Data visualization makes trends clearer to people without technical backgrounds. The most popular data visualization tools for business intelligence include:

  • Clear Analytics for its intuitive user interface, self-service approach, and ability to integrate with Excel and data sources.
  • Dundas BI for its web-based server application, ability to integrate data from multiple sources, and self-service approach to generating visual reports.


Business intelligence relies on the ability to house and access data. Some of the most popular, cloud-based database and data warehouse options include:

  • Amazon RDS for its scalability, exceptional performance, and high security standards.
  • MySQL for its remarkable uptime, focus on data security, and user support services.
  • PostgreSQL for its decades of experience, frequent updates, and robust features.

Data Warehouses

Data warehouses benefit business intelligence by giving professionals access to information related to a specific topic. The most popular data warehouses include:

  • Amazon Redshift for its fast speed and adaptability.
  • Snowflake for its stellar speed and time-based pricing model.
  • Google BigQuery for its its out-of-the-box usefulness and affordable rates.

Data Analytics

Data doesn’t make much sense until you use software designed to analyze it for patterns. Some of the top data analytic tools for BI include:

  • Periscope Data for its lightning-fast query run times and secure connections to cloud data sources.
  • Chartio for its ability to work well for everyone from coders to sales professionals.

All of these business intelligence tools work better when you use an ETL solution like Xplenty to extract, transform, and load data. A reliable ETL platform makes it easy to standardize data formats, pull information from multiple sources, and load data into applications that help you make insightful business decisions.

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Glossary of Terms

A guide to the nomenclature of data integration technology.