Business intelligence:

Business intelligence (BI) is a broad category of application programs and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions. BI applications include the activities of decision support, query and reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), statistical analysis, forecasting, and data mining.

Business intelligence applications and technologies can enable organizations to make more informed business decisions, and they may give a company a competitive advantage. For example, a company could use business intelligence applications or technologies to extrapolate information from indicators in the external environment and forecast the future trends in their sector. Business intelligence is used to improve the timeliness and quality of information and enable managers to better understand the position of their firm in comparison to its competitors.

Where its applicable:

Business intelligence, or BI, is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. BI as a discipline is made up of several related activities, including data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting.

Companies use BI to improve decision making, cut costs and identify new business opportunities. BI is more than just corporate reporting and more than a set of tools to coax data out of enterprise systems. CIO’s use BI to identify inefficient business processes that are ripe for re-engineering.

With today’s BI tools, business folks can jump in and start analyzing data themselves, rather than wait for IT to run complex reports. This democratization of information access helps users back up—with hard numbers—business decisions that would otherwise be based only on gut feelings and anecdotes.