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Business intelligence tools are a type of software that is designed to retrieve, analyze and report data. This broad definition includes everything from spreadsheets, visual analytics, and querying software to data mining, warehousing, and decision engineering.
Most of the time, business intelligence tools are standalone tools or suites of tools that are targeted to a specific industry. You might have heard them referred to as “data warehouse appliances,” or as a bunch of letters strung together into acronyms (ERP, OLAP, CPM, CRM, etc).
So that’s the technical definition. But what is it really? Business intelligence is basically just getting important business information to decision makers when they need it -- in a way that they can actually use it. It’s a matter of figuring out what data you need, collecting it in a way that it’s meaningful, analyzing in a way that’s usable, and storing it in a way that you can keep referring to it in the future.
If you’re familiar with business intelligence tools at all, you’ve probably heard of at least one of the main makers of business intelligence tools out there: Oracle, Microsoft, SAS Institute, SAP, or Tableau. You may have used Microstrategy or IBM Cognos Series 10 or QlikView.
But even if you haven’t heard of these business intelligence tools, you’ve probably used one of the most common business intelligence tools around: Microsoft Excel, Open Office Calc, Apple Numbers, or Google Docs Spreadsheets . That’s right: a simple spreadsheet is most definitely a business intelligence tool. And almost every one of the more specialized tools mentioned above (and even ones we didn’t) all have an “export to spreadsheet” function.
Why are there so many business intelligence tools, and why are we talking about them here? Because there’s so much information out there, and because the amount of data that’s being collected is growing exponentially. Businesses need tools that can help them analyze this data. And when it comes to using this data, visualizations and infographics are some of the best ways to present the data.
Visualizations are an important part of data reporting. Applying a graphical outlook to information that will be distributed across an organization makes that data easier to understand and to act upon. And when businesses have the right information at the right time, that means more profits and more efficiency.
To learn more about how to turn business intelligence into data visualizations, keep reading. You’ll learn about the web-based visualization tools that are making it easier than ever to create infographics -- and the process of creating data visualizations themselves.