using business intelligenceAccording to Gartner, global revenue in the business intelligence market is forecast to reach 18.3 billion in 2017, and grow to 22.8 billion by the end of 2020. Let’s review what business intelligence is and why it’s important.

Business intelligence is defined as analyzing data using a technology-driven process to help companies make more actionable decisions. Some people use business analytics to mean the same idea as BI, while others think of business analytics as part of a larger family, which includes data warehousing, governance, risk, and others. However, like many IT terms, BI and business analytics are usually used interchangeably.

What does using business intelligence mean for the enterprise? BI gives organizations more opportunities to understand and process their data to get more value out of it. They can make better decisions as a result, both financially and from other perspectives, including marketing, HR, and product management.

A brief history of BI

The term “business intelligence” has been around since the 1860s, but the more modern definition we think of today wasn’t developed until the late 1980s. An international conference was held in 1988 to streamline data process, and it was after this conference that BI really took off. More vendors entered the field and data warehouses were created, which improved data flow. Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tools and Online Analytics Processing (OLAP) software were also created, tools that are critical components of BI today.

Today, the cloud and social media have helped revolutionize BI, helping it expand its reach and simplify the platform. With the growth of the internet, users are producing more and more information, and business are realizing the advantages BI provides to help them process that information to stay ahead of the competition and keep their ear to the ground on what their customers want. The cloud offers fast, cheap and scalable means to process and store this data, leading to a wider adoption rate among organizations today. The next trend in BI is using mobile platforms to review analytics anywhere, anytime.

What BI tools are available for me to use?

Microsoft offers Power BI, which is a cloud-based business analytics service that enables anyone to visualize and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding. It connects users to a broad range of data through easy-to-use dashboards, interactive reports, and compelling visualizations that bring data to life. Work with several integrations, including Salesforce, MailChip and others (no idea what they are). Users can also link to any desired data sources within the recently released preview version of Power BI Report Server, and host reports created by internal BI tools. Expect general availability by the end of 2017.

Amazon offers QuickSight, a similarly cloud-powered BI tool. You can upload CSV or Excel files; ingest data from AWS data sources in the cloud or on-premises; or connect to SaaS applications like Salesforce. Future releases will let you ingest data from Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Kinesis as well as other cloud applications.

Google’s Data Studio 360 is a relatively new offering (2016 beta release). If you’re already invested in many Google products (Analytics, AdWords, YouTube), this tool will take the data from those channels (and others) to create customizable dashboards and reports very easily. It doesn’t offer as many data source connectors as PowerBI or QuickSight, but some SQL server offerings are included, and more are expected in the future.

Conclusion

Thanks to the advancements BI has made over the years, companies are now in a better position than ever get the most out of the data that comes in all its forms and sources. They can use a variety of tools to glean insights into customer acquisition, behavior, financial metrics, etc to make more meaningful business decisions. Cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google offer BI tools to help enterprises analyze and process their data more quickly and easily and take advantage of the cheaper storage options the cloud provides. Companies are also experimenting with mobile analytics to maintain access to their data anytime, anywhere.