Business Intelligence: Back to Basics

At Mintivo, we’ve been working in the world of business intelligence (BI) and data for several years now. Like most people with expertise in a particular subject, we can be guilty of slipping into using jargon. It’s easy to forget not everyone is as versed in the world and language of Business Intelligence as we are.

We’ve previously given a series of webinars for the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. In these sessions, we helped people from small and growing businesses to understand the fundamentals of BI and data in business. These sessions brought home the fact that most business owners just want to understand the basics of what BI is; they want to know how it can help them and their business. They aren’t excited by the technology that makes it happen (like we are!), it’s simply a means to an end for them. 

The exciting part is how BI can make their life easier, and their business more successful! Businesses now have access to more data about themselves than ever before, but few are utilising it to the full potential. 

The challenge lies in transforming this raw data into actionable intelligence. BI helps bridge this gap by providing a clear picture of your business performance, uncovering hidden patterns, and identifying areas for improvement. Whether you’re looking to optimise

marketing campaigns, streamline operations, or improve customer satisfaction, BI can be a game-changer.

This article will serve as a back-to-basics guide to business intelligence. We’ll explore the different components of BI, delve into real-world examples of how businesses are using it to gain a competitive edge, and provide practical tips on how you can leverage BI to unlock the potential within your own organisation.

What is Business Intelligence?

Part of the challenge for people understanding what BI is comes from the fact it’s an umbrella term. Business Intelligence covers a range of tools and techniques with a common goal that are all designed to turn data into useful answers and insights to help people make the right decisions.

It’s a combination of strategies and technologies used by businesses to help turn the vast amount of information a company generates into actionable insights that inform better decision-making. Imagine a compass for your business – BI helps you navigate by providing a clear understanding of how things are performing, highlighting trends, and pinpointing areas for improvement.

The DIKW Model

An example of Business Intelligence

If you’ve ever looked at your bank statement to see what money you have left for the month before you buy something, you’ve used data to inform your decisions. BI is the same concept on a larger scale. 

A business looking at its cash flow before it invests in a major project isn’t any different. You’re still using the data you have to hand to help inform your decisions. This makes it more likely you’ll make the right decision than if you rely just on gut instinct. Sounds simple enough and it isn’t a new idea, but the difficulties come in the execution.

Let’s say you run a clothing store. Traditionally, you might rely on experience or “gut instinct” to decide what clothes to stock. But with BI, you can analyse historical sales data to see which styles, colours, and sizes sell best. You can also look at customer demographics and purchasing habits to identify trends. This allows you to make data-driven decisions about what to order, when to offer discounts, and how to target your marketing efforts.

Here’s a more specific example: BI might reveal that a certain type of jeans sells particularly well to young professionals on weekdays. So, you could use this insight to:

  • Increase your stock of these jeans.
  • Offer targeted discounts for young professionals during the week.
  • Promote these jeans online through channels frequented by your target audience (e.g., social media platforms).

This is just one example, but BI can be applied to virtually any aspect of a business, from optimising marketing campaigns to streamlining operations. The key takeaway is that BI goes beyond simply looking at data. It’s about using data to uncover hidden patterns, identify trends, and gain a deeper understanding of your customers and your business as a whole. This allows you to make informed decisions that are more likely to lead to success.

Why Business Intelligence is important

The business world gets more complex all the time, and even small businesses are weighed down with huge amounts of data. Businesses often end up with whole teams spending all their time pulling data together from lots of systems and spreadsheets. This can take a long time and means leaders don’t get the answers they need when they need them.

This is where BI has changed in recent years. The key goal of BI professionals is no longer just to get you the answers you need to run your business, it’s about getting them to you when you need them with the least effort possible. In business, competition is fierce and the ability to make informed decisions quickly is critical. BI (done well!) offers a multitude of benefits that can significantly improve your company’s performance:

Data-driven decisions: BI empowers you to move beyond intuition and rely on concrete data to make strategic choices. This reduces the risk of errors associated with guesswork and allows you to focus resources on initiatives with a higher chance of success.

Improved efficiency: BI tools can analyse vast amounts of data to identify areas for streamlining operations. This can lead to cost reductions, faster turnaround times, and a more efficient overall workflow.

Competitive advantage: BI equips you with valuable insights into market trends, customer behaviour, and competitor strategies. This allows you to adapt your offerings, optimise pricing, and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Enhanced customer satisfaction: BI helps you understand your customers better by analysing their purchasing habits and preferences. This allows you to personalise marketing campaigns, develop targeted products and services, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Risk management: BI can be used to identify potential risks and challenges before they escalate. By analysing historical data and industry trends, you can proactively develop contingency plans and mitigate potential losses.

Informed investment decisions: BI provides valuable insights into financial performance and resource allocation. This allows you to make informed investment decisions, prioritise projects effectively, and ensure a healthy return on your investments.

Using Business Intelligence in your business

All that most people need to know is there are ways to automate most BI production. It is possible to get the insights you need in your hands when you need them. You shouldn’t need a team of people permanently dedicated to wrangling spreadsheets!

Forget the jargon and stop getting hung up on the technology – that’s what us BI professionals are here to help with. In a world where businesses are awash with data, focus on asking the right questions that will help your business get value from your data. Ready to harness the power of BI for your business? Don’t wait! Speak to us today to understand the vast array of BI tools and resources available, assess your specific needs, and take the first step towards a data-driven future.

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