Business Intelligence Basics

| June 17, 2013

Business Intelligence Basics

Business intelligence is becoming an essential part of every modern enterprise, but what does it involve? Greg Butler demystifies this topic with a helpful introduction to business intelligence tools and key issues.


‘Business intelligence tools’ are becoming an essential part of every modern enterprise. The term generally refers to software packages that can help you mine data that is relevant to your business and display it in a user-friendly, actionable format.

There are a number of software packages that can be used for business intelligence activities. They can be broadly grouped into tools for spreadsheets, reporting and querying, data mining and warehousing, online analytical processing and digital processing.

Key issues in business intelligence

The process of gathering business intelligence revolves around the collection and analysis of data.

  • Data. This raw information is at the heart of business intelligence. To stay on top of trends in your industry, you need to focus on collecting relevant data. What are you looking to achieve? Understanding upcoming trends in your market? Predicting downtimes in the financial year? The answers to these questions determine the data you should be collecting.
  • Analytics. Business intelligence software can provide you with well-presented information on the specific metrics you require. The important thing is what you do with that information and that requires analysis. If you have clear goals and well-structured data collection, this will allow you to make decisions based on relevant evidence.

Examples of tools and software programs

  • Spreadsheets. These are the most commonly used business intelligence tools. The best known program is Microsoft Excel. Other options include Apple Numbers and Google Docs.
  • Analytics. Programs which present data in an easily readable format are essential for analysis. There are plenty of options including Oracle Reports, QlikView, Tableau and ActiveReports.
  • Data mining. Data mining is a key element in business intelligence. There are numerous software packages that can organise raw information and it into a usable format. Oracle Data Mining, the IBM SPSS Modeler and LIONsolver are popular examples of programs in this category.
  • Data warehousing. Data doesn’t always just come from one location. Data warehousing IS used to assemble information from a wide range of sources. The programs include Amazon Redshift, plus options from IBM and Oracle.
  • Business performance management. These software programs allow you to look at your business as a whole and track how well you’re moving towards your goals. Example programs include Hyperion (now part of Oracle), SAP and Corporater.


With the increasing power of handheld devices, mobile business intelligence solutions are becoming more and more common. If your workforce is remote or frequently away from the office, these tools are extremely valuable. They allow executives and decision-makers to have access to the cloud based data they need to make decisions.

The Cloud

Cloud storage outsources your information to a remotely accessible massive storage system. Although it opens up new security issues, it has huge potential for reducing the strain on your office systems. It also preserves important information in case of any unforseen issues such as arson or natural disasters. As more and more businesses begin to use the cloud, it will become an essential part of business intelligence strategies.


Business intelligence solutions provide much needed data, which can influence the decisions you make for your organisation. There are several open-source options like Jasper Reports and free services like QlikView, but spending money on a more comprehensive package like those offered by Oracle or SAS can be a safer option. Regardless of the platform, thorough analysis and accurately gathered intelligence are integral to the success of any business.



Greg Butler is a Communications Advisor with Commercial Insurance at GIO. He has a long history in the advertising industry, heading the creative departments of local and international agencies, including Clemenger, AdPartners and Leo Burnett. He is experienced in insurance and financial services having worked on accounts including AMP, Standard & Chartered Bank, AGC/Westpac and Sun Alliance.