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Business Intelligence Software 2021: Complete Guide

Learn how Business Intelligence systems play an important role in helping your business and how to choose the right software

Last updated: Feb 20, 2021

Business Intelligence Software 2021: Complete Guide

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence refers to applications, technologies, and practices that are used for the collection, integration, presentation, and analysis of business information. The entire purpose of business intelligence is aimed at supporting better business decision making.

Some examples of business intelligence technologies include data discovery tools and cloud data services, ad hoc reporting, dashboards, and data warehouses. Business Intelligence combines business analytics, data visualization, data mining, data tools and infrastructure, and best practices to make more data-driven decisions.

A Cole Market Research (2020-2025) states that the Business Intelligence (BI) Market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12% over the forecast period of 2019-2024. One reason for the push towards Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics and them gaining market share is believed to be the emergence of Big Data and the need to make critical business decisions in a shorter period today. Research suggests that the trend is expected to steadily grow with time, as the advancement of technology and growing investments happens in this domain.

What is a Business Intelligence System?

A Business Intelligence System uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze internal, structured data, and business processes. Business Intelligence Systems are systems that are used to find patterns from operational data.

The term business intelligence system is used to refer to the range of tools that help provide access to an organization's operational state based on data. This system enables and empowers its stakeholders which includes corporate executives, business managers, and other operational professionals to make better, efficient, and informed business decisions.

Business intelligence (BI) Software leverages company data and related services to transform data into actionable insights that aid in the organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions. BI tools access and analyze data sets and present analytical findings in reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, charts, and maps to provide users with detailed intelligence about the state of the business.

The term business intelligence often also refers to a range of tools that provide quick, easy-to-digest access to insights about an organization's current state, based on available data.

There are several different classes of business intelligence systems some of which depend on the business warehouse paradigm, while others offer flexibility in terms of costs or capabilities. On-premise, full-stack BI solutions comprise a number of key BI components including data warehouse, an extraction system, ad-hoc query tools, and presentation layers. Open source, Full-Stack class Business Intelligence systems are more cost-effective and at times also offer more developer-oriented capabilities such as integrated security, connectivity to multiple data sources, and administration tools. Finally, there are cloud-based, full-stack Business Intelligence systems which are a subset of full-stack products and differ mainly in the deployment (overcloud as opposed to on-premise).

4 Benefits of Business Intelligence System

Enterprises also routinely use business intelligence to cut costs, spot inefficient business processes, identify new business opportunities. Let’s look at some of the specific benefits of a Business Intelligence System.

Uncover Valuable Insights

Business Intelligence Systems allow one to create real-time, actionable, and insightful business information through custom reports and dashboards, which enables management teams to make better and more informed decisions. Companies can, therefore, monitor and gauge many department-specific parameters such as employee productivity, revenue, and overall success to uncover strengths and weaknesses.

4 Benefits of Business Intelligence System

Gain Insights into Consumer Behaviour

Business Intelligence Systems can help companies understand customer activities and identify patterns. Today’s access to real-time customer data requires Business Intelligence Systems, to aggregate different data sources and provide a full picture of their customer journey. This helps in identifying customer trends and expectations, enabling businesses to stay competitive.

Increase Organizational Efficiency

Business Intelligence Systems use tools to aggregate data from multiple sources which help managers and employees spend less time tracking down information. This, in turn, enables employees to focus on producing timely and accurate reports. Business users are therefore more productive and can analyze the impact of their decisions efficiently.

Think analytically, rigorously, and systematically about a business problem and come up with a solution that leverages the available data.


Michael O’Connell

Chief Analytics Officer TIBCO


Benchmarking reports offer valuable, timely data that let businesses evaluate their performance against individual KPIs or trends over time, providing valuable insights into the company’s current state. While organizations often struggle with benchmarking, business intelligence systems simplify this process by harnessing using data analysis to gauge revenue, business productivity, and competition and providing actionable information on the way forward.

Which industries use a Business Intelligence System?

Business Intelligence Systems benefit several business processes in an organization including and not limited to the retail industry, food industry, telecom industry, oil industry, fashion industry, pharma industry, education industry, public utilities, transportation industry, the video games industry, and various federal governments, among others.

The biggest challenge of making the evolution from a knowing culture to a learning culture—from a culture that largely depends on heuristics in decision making to a culture that is much more objective and data-driven and embraces the power of data and technology.


Murli Buluswar

Chief Science Officer AIG

Who are the users of a Business Intelligence System?

While data has become crucial to most departments in a business enterprise, it is central in all roles related to data analysts, HR executives, business managers, the IT team among others. Most Business Intelligence systems users are top-level managers in operations, and C-level decision making roles.

Why Business Intelligence is Important

Faster Response to Market

One of the most vital solutions offered by a Business Intelligence System is the ability to look at what the market is purchasing now. This is possible because data is collected and analyzed from all relevant sources that give a holistic view of the business situation. This actionable insight helps businesses to take timely action to respond to market situations dynamically.

Avoid Customer Attrition

Insights gleaned from a Business Intelligence System can give valuable insights into customer behavior. This includes insights on customer preferences, history, and interests, based on which companies can build long-term relationships and reduce customer turnover.

One of the biggest challenges is around data privacy and what is shared versus what is not shared. And my perspective on that is consumers are willing to share if there’s value returned. One-way sharing is not going to fly anymore.


Zoher Karu

Head of Data and Analytics

Democratize Data

With the help of Business Intelligence tools, many departments and professionals working in different rungs of the business can access and analyze real-time information whenever they want and use it effectively. Information can also be easily shared with people across the board and help teams identify new growth opportunities by taking advantage of meaningful data and use it to drive revenues.

Improve Performance Management

Business Intelligence Systems offer companies access to meaningful analysis and reporting which aids them in making well-informed, insightful, long-term strategic, and tactical decisions quickly and efficiently. Business Intelligence Systems enable this by tracking KPIs against key business goals to understand how the business is currently performing. This informs decision making for companies who can then take proactive measures to improve performance and meet profit expectations.

Top 5 Features of BI System

Analytics Dashboards

Most Business Intelligence Systems are geared to enable executives to make fast and better decision-making. Analytical dashboards which are personalized and intuitive help in delivering real-time data in a simple and interactive manner.

Ranking Reports

This feature quickly lets you have a bird’s eye view of the best and worst-performing aspect of your business. It does this by creating variable rankings, across multiple dimensions while specifying various selection criteria at run-time to focus on the result.

Metadata Management

Business Intelligence Systems help manage metadata centrally using dimensions, indicators, hierarchies, measures, and other data required for business analysis. Metadata also includes processed data like KPI, single product sales, personal sales, and the system enables administrators of the Business Intelligence systems to associate and integrate metadata processed and stored by users with the underlying data connected to the BI platform.

Visualization Tools

Business Intelligence Systems offer tremendous value using data discovery and visualization tools, which are designed to empower data analysts and business users with the ability to perform ad-hoc analysis. This supports intelligent analysis of data (as opposed to reporting and monitoring) and helps uncover hidden insights from multiple data sources.

Predictive Analysis and Modelling

The “What If” analysis enables businesses to assess the potential effects of critical business decisions before they make them. The predictive capabilities built into Business Intelligence enable decision-makers to predict market trends and other business insights like sales, staffing, etc.

AI in Business Intelligence Systems

According to a Forrester survey of global decision-makers, improving data, analytics or insights platforms is one of the top use cases for artificial intelligence technologies. It’s therefore not surprising that major Business Intelligence vendors including IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft, all have incorporated AI technologies into their offerings.

Natural Language Processing

Natural Language Processing or NLP is helping business users query or "talk" to their reports to ask questions and get answers from their data, instead of having to dig deep in their dashboard reports. AI is driving the ability for users to interact with their data in a natural way, and get intelligent answers on the state of their operations bypassing the need to even create or look at data and reports.

Automated Predictive Analytics

AI and machine learning are driving actionable insights from business intelligence by leveraging previously unused data sets. The tool gathers all the relevant data and offers predictive results based on the query. This level of machine-oriented analytics can analyze various scenarios rapidly and provide expected outcomes without time and cost involvement, usually required by human analysis.

Buyer’s Guide: Top 6 Factors to Consider to Choose Right BI System

The top considerations that a buyer needs to think about before investing in a Business Intelligence System include:


Buyers are recommended to consider peer reviews and expert opinions that are extensively available on Cuspera before making buying decisions. Cuspera’s AI based engine guides you through the requirement process to help you choose the right software.

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Secure data is of vital importance to any business, and the Business Intelligence System must ensure that the data warehouse is protected against unauthorized access. An efficient Business Intelligence System will ensure data encryption, manage data security, responsible data sharing, manage cloud security, and ensure data safety against phishing or social engineering scams that could breach cloud security.


As the amount of data that companies work rapidly increases, the number of users of the Business Intelligence System will also be on the rise. Business Intelligence Systems must provide a scalable and expandable environment for filing, restoring, updating, and recognizing data for both business intelligence and data storage systems to support this data growth as well as numerous users.

SaaS or On-Premise

There are several SaaS-based visualization tools for BI which are popular and offer a cost-effective solution. However, businesses going for full-stack implementation might prefer to choose on-premise deployment due to data security and privacy issues. Also in some cases, it might be required by law to keep the data within the boundary. The choice of deployment option should be made based on business requirements and regulations.

Full-stack vs Point Visualization

Businesses can choose between going for a full-stack Business Intelligence system or opting for a visualization solution instead. While full-stack systems help enterprises create stable operational reports consistently across the entire organization, visualization systems are geared towards enabling technically-oriented business users to go beyond data reports and perform intuitive querying and visualization of their data to uncover patterns.


Business Intelligence Systems should be able to integrate with the existing infrastructure including internal SQL server, 3rd party data warehouses, configurations, and other data sources. As all data sources are connected, it helps bring data to a single place to help companies in leveraging the most out of their data.

Multiple Devices

The mark of a modern Business Intelligence System is its ability to span multiple devices and platforms, yet provide a native experience for every device. As newer and more efficient devices continue to flood markets, modern Business Intelligence Systems and their solutions must create applications that can instantly adapt to any platform readily.

Challenges in Adopting a Business Intelligence System

A few of the common challenges faced by buyers while implementing or using the Business Intelligence System include:

High Investment

The cost of deploying and conveying Business Intelligence is huge for small and medium-sized enterprises. Constrained assets and tight spending plans, can stress costly framework speculations expected from BI programming, which make it a challenge to implement.

Lack of Qualified Personnel

The real power of BI systems can be harnessed only when business analysts are able to use the system effectively and are able to translate business requirements. While many organizations today are readily opting for a sound Business Intelligence Systems and apparatus management, there is still a need for specialized abilities needed to run them. Traditional Business Intelligence tools are complicated to use and only a few individuals in a company may know how to use them, which would then require the firm to make investments into training and execution.

Incompatible Data Sources

Organizations derive data from a number of sources including legacy systems which may need to upgrade and data unified before the implementation of a Business Intelligence System. This could result in time and money spent cleaning and organizing data first, before using the BI service.

Low Adoption

Lack of company-wide adoption and usage is another challenge faced by enterprises that choose to deploy a Business Intelligence System for their business needs. Companies that lack a data culture could experience a push back in terms of adoption of the Business Intelligence System. Administrators may not be able to effectively communicate how the organization would benefit from BI, business users may be unable to utilize data in the existing framework, and in some cases, users may not even know the system exists.

ROI of a Business Intelligence System

While investment in a Business Intelligence System is high, the benefits a business can enjoy are extensive. Some of these are as follows:

Time Savings

While manually integrating data sources like web services, CSV files and databases are not only time consuming but also error-prone, it also becomes stale by the time it is integrated into the systems and analyzed. Instead, Business Intelligence System software sorts data efficiently and prepares reports instantaneously making it possible for companies to analyze large amounts of data and information quickly. As per a blog by Data Virtuality on ‘Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) of Business Intelligence Projects, customer journeys, and their digital footprint can now be optimized in 80% less time than usual.

Analytical Flexibility

Business Intelligence Systems offer business users flexibility in analysis and remove their dependence on IT departments, or business analysts to seek business insights. The tools offered by BI enable companies the creativity to make decisions quickly without going through a time consuming, traditional or lengthy processes which are people led, rather than data-driven.

144 Business Intelligence Software