Today, businesses of all sizes have access to a vast amount of data covering everything from internal sales figures to global weather patterns — and virtually everything in between. Whether you run a small business or you own a Fortune 500 company, making sense out of big data can give you a competitive advantage (Source: In order to do that, you need a business intelligence tool.

Why Business Intelligence?

Think of big data as a huge haystack containing several proverbial needles. These needles are the information and insights that you need to make smart decisions, but they’re not readily apparent. As you know, searching for a needle in a haystack is far from easy and often overwhelming. Most of us would jump in without a plan and many will never find a needle. Moreover, if we’re focused too heavily on finding a particular item such as a pre-conceived notion of a needle, we may overlook other gems (Source:

The same can be true when approaching big data without business intelligence (Source: You may have a huge spreadsheet loaded with row after row of transactional data but how do you make sense of it? All those numbers become a jumble, and it’s overwhelming. Nothing makes sense.

Business intelligence software helps you to make sense of big data, allowing you to gain meaningful insights quickly and efficiently. Various tools are available including data visualizations, drag-and-drop reports, dashboards, and more. These tools allow you to find timely, accurate, meaningful, and actionable insights from big data.

Business intelligence can be used in a variety of ways in businesses of all sizes including:

  • Understanding consumer behaviors – Use business intelligence to find out what consumers are buying along with insights as to what may be spurring them to do so. Business intelligence also excels in providing demographic profiles, allowing you to better understand who your customers really are. The better you understand your customers, the better able you will be to attract more customers just like them or develop new products or services.
  • Forecasting trends – Google Flu Trends uses business intelligence to visualize and estimate flu activity based on related search entries. Using this data, you could forecast demand for hospital beds, primary care appointments, and medications.
  • Improving visibility – Business intelligence can be used to look inside your organization as well. It can be used to identify processes in need of improvement, improve efficiencies, and improve and monitor performance. When business process efficiencies and performance improve, productivity and profits tend to improve as well.
  • Strategic planning – Business intelligence allows you to identify patterns and glean actionable insights across any number of areas, making it an indispensable strategic planning tool. With business intelligence tools, it’s much easier to “connect the dots” between seemingly unrelated areas of your business.
  • Reporting – Business intelligence tools typically contain robust reporting abilities, allowing you to more easily communicate the insights you’ve discovered with others. Social collaboration tools (such as easy sharing and commenting) often accompany business intelligence reporting tools.

These are but a few examples of how business intelligence benefits business. With access to an unprecedented amount of information, business intelligence has become more important than ever.