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Business Intelligence Software

Discover how business intelligence software can help large companies.

Business intelligence software can help track customer patterns. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Business intelligence software can help track customer patterns.

Business intelligence software is designed to give companies better analysis capabilities for existing data. Business intelligence refers to gathering and analyzing data to make informed business decisions, and business intelligence software enables companies do this.

According to Softwaremag.com, executives of large companies often can't find information when they need it because their information systems store huge quantities of data. These systems might also be at different locations. Business intelligence software organizes information from different databases so it is easily retrievable, in useful ways.

For example, a restaurant chain may have thousands of restaurants in many different countries. Business intelligence software makes it easier for the chain to analyze data such as inventory, trends and staffing at all locations, so that the owners can run their business more profitably.

Even in tough economic times, many companies see business intelligence software as a key investment priority . While expensive, the software can be especially helpful to large businesses that are merging or facing new competition or sales possibilities. Business intelligence software comes in many variations, but all types give businesses better and more information to improve their operations. Thus, in the long run, for large companies, the context and analytical abilities of such software is worth its cost.

What Business Intelligence Software Does

Business intelligence software programs improve organizational performance and help companies track customer patterns and streamline costs. PCMag.com considers business intelligence software a "critical technology" that can assist businesses in digging into the tiniest details of their operations and also monitor larger patterns. Some business intelligence software allows businesses to connect related data from multiple sources, even sources outside of the company. Business intelligence software may be used to monitor the quality control of inventory, assist with marketing, monitor the electricity used to build a specific part, and just about any other aspect of the business.
Common uses for business intelligence software include:

  • Shoring up cash flow
  • Determining where to lower inventory costs
  • Protecting profit margins

Effective Business Intelligence Software

Customers purchasing business intelligence software should ensure that the software meets the following criteria:

  • The guides accompanying the software should be neat, interactive and simple.
  • The software should allow users to drill down into data.
  • The software should allow customers to analyze the data using multiple methods.
  • Users should be able to use the data to generate graphics that are easy to understand.

Types of Business Intelligence Software

According to IntelligentEnterprise.com, some business intelligence software engages in predictive analytics, a process that uses data mining and other statistical techniques to study data, both current and historical, to make predictions and develop predictive models. Predictive analytic programs are best used by businesses that need to study changing consumer behavior, such as a restaurant chain during a poor economy.

Other business intelligence software offers customer intelligence. In addition to providing details on customer habits, these programs can generate automatic letters to customers and route situations in need of attention to the appropriate person. Companies that need to drill deeply into large data sets and provide context to these sets typically use data query and analysis software. Customer intelligence software is particularly helpful to retailers, who can use it to analyze customer complaints to determine problems in its stores.

Some business intelligence software, such as IBM's Cognos TMI 9.4, features intuitive analysis. This type of software can analyze a company's planning, budgeting, forecasting and consolidating activities.

Other types of business intelligence software include:

  • Data visualization
  • Decision support
  • Reporting
  • Web analytics

How to Cut Costs

Business intelligence software can cost more than $50,000, which makes it out of reach for many smaller companies that often don't reap the benefits of the software because they don't have large quantities of data to mine. The software is usually sold through a licensing arrangement -- the software company sells a license to the business, allowing it to use the software for a specific term. The license cannot be sold by the purchaser. Changing vendors can be difficult due to the cost. Thus, research is important before choosing a business intelligence software vendor.

Consulting firms and system integrators often sell the programs. Major data warehouse vendors include IBM and Oracle. SAP is a well-known business intelligence vendor.

Although business intelligence software is very expensive, there are ways to cut costs when purchasing it. Businesses should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don't be afraid to negotiate a reduction in the fee.
  • Make sure to retain the right to change a platform, such as an underlying database, without fees.
  • Read the contract carefully. Sometimes license minimums are contained in a contract. Maintenance fees also may be charged.

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