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What Are Business Intelligence Tools?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 16, 2024
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Business intelligence tools are software programs and features that are used to complete detailed data analysis. The term "business intelligence" is used to describe computer software that is used to identify patterns and trends in large data sets. There are a range of business intelligence tools available in the commercial software market, and selecting the correct solution requires a good understanding of reporting requirements and long-term business needs.

There are three types of business intelligence tools: data extraction, data architecture and query development. All four types of tools are included as standard features in most business intelligence software products. The skills required to utilize these tools effectively include data management, intermediate computer skills and prior statistics training. Business intelligence is an area that has experienced growth and and is expected to keep growing.

Business intelligence systems are either built into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or function as independent computer applications. In order to utilize business intelligence software, the data from the transactional system must be made available to the software. This usually is achieved through the use of an extract, transform and load (ETL) tool, which is programed to select data that matches a specific criteria and ensure data consistency before loading it into the business intelligence solution.

Data architecture is the process of designing internal tables and data structures. This is one of the more important tools, because a well-designed system can expand capacity and grow to meet changing needs. A user interface provides the architect with the tools necessary to create and maintain these tables.

The purpose of business intelligence tools is to enable a range of forms of analysis that would not otherwise be possible. Options include creation of ad hoc, scheduled and standard reports across a range of disciplines. The functionality required to create these reports is an essential part of the application. Query development requires a combination of technical skills and a solid understanding of business process.

The very best tools are useful only in the hands of skilled staff members. The primary requirements for a position in business intelligence include post-secondary training in statistics, advanced mathematics or computer systems. Many employers expect a graduate degree in statistics or mathematics for management roles.

Business intelligence products are constantly changing, and a commitment to continuing education is necessary to be successful in this type of work. An employee can keep his or her skills current through online courses, seminars and discussions. These skills can be used to help evaluate the merits and potential applications of business intelligence tools.

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Discussion Comments

By FlwerChild — On Mar 17, 2014

Business Intelligence Tools are becoming more and more user friendly. As with most technology, the program is doing most of the thinking and analysis that prior to these programs, people would have had to work out themselves. Now that the step is taken away, do students still learn those steps or do they just learn how to read the results?

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