What is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence is the data-driven process by which organizations seek to improve understanding of their operations in order to make better decisions based on real-time insights. Business intelligence, or BI, is used by companies in all industries to capture data, analyze it, and derive better answers to vital questions. 

Business intelligence shows users what’s happening behind the scenes and can provide actionable information to help improve future performance. With the help of BI, users can uncover new data relationships and explore untried business possibilities. BI captures data from across an organization’s operations and makes insights accessible to every stakeholder.

Business intelligence real life examples


Online casino platform Casumo processes millions of customer transactions per day. Previously, its attempt at BI consisted of static reports created mostly by the finance department, which was getting overwhelmed with requests for more specific information.  

Data Engineering & Analytics Lead Emanuele Nardo needed a way to integrate those millions of daily transactions with Casumo’s digital marketing, accounting, financial, and affiliate data into a single source of truth. Emanuele used business intelligence to approach his company’s data in a forward-thinking manner, with an aim to standardize reporting and create a centralized system that all employees could access. 

With Sisense’s customized business intelligence system, Casumo has succeeded in completely reinventing its data culture. Now, employees can successfully integrate their own data sources and develop reports that are easy to understand.

The Sisense interface is so simple to use, even the most non-technical users can harness the power of business intelligence to create their own dashboards and business reports. Instead of a “case-by-case” or “day-by-day” approach to reporting, Sisense has allowed Casumo to create a long-term data strategy that empowers every employee with business intelligence.

AllOver Media

Another Sisense customer, AllOver Media, coordinates out-of-home advertising and works with national, regional, and local partners. The company doesn’t have a dedicated data warehouse or even an IT staff to speak of. With a growing amount of data coming from multiple sources, AllOver Media needed a business intelligence system that was easy to implement, even without in-house technical expertise. 

The Sisense BI platform was implemented quickly, and within a few weeks the company’s business intelligence — which formerly took the form of outdated key performance indicator (KPI) reports — was now displayed as dashboards. 

With business intelligence, it’s easy to slice the data in different ways to reveal if a sales rep is out of line with a particular vertical or if a weaker channel can be built up using different targeted campaigns. Sisense gives AllOver Media’s team the flexibility to scale up operations as the company grows, producing reports and increasing adoption rates with minimal effort.

Business intelligence vs. business analytics

If you’re confused about the difference between business intelligence and business analytics, here’s a breakdown of terms:

Business intelligence describes what’s currently happening in your organization. BI tools can answer questions like: Are you on track to hit your KPIs? How does this quarter’s performance compare to last quarter? How did that campaign email hit?

Business analytics goes a step further, to help you predict what could happen in the future and what you would have to do to get the best outcomes. Advanced analytics tools like AI, forecasting, and machine learning make these capabilities even more targeted and accurate.

Business intelligence strategy

According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report commissioned by Sisense in 2021, 89% of survey respondents report that their business intelligence strategy, and the analyzed data that it produces, is essential for their organization to stay competitive.

When senior executives lead by example and infuse analytics into every decision they make, the whole company benefits with increased opportunities to drive growth and boost revenue. This data-driven approach to work often necessitates a cultural shift throughout the organization, starting at the top. Business leaders can support these efforts by encouraging all employees to become data literate and adopt business intelligence tools as part of their daily workflows.

Learn how to build a successful BI strategy in this 5 steps guide:

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Business intelligence architecture

BI architecture is the infrastructure that organizations use to define the technology and structure that support their business intelligence. In order to create the best business intelligence system, the architecture must be set up carefully from the top down in a way that makes sense for your business structure and growth plan.

The factors that need to be considered while creating this structure are your data sources, connections, planned implementation, and ultimate usage goals. Storage is also a key factor in creating your business intelligence architecture, as it will establish who has permission to access data, how it is organized, and how quickly it can be referenced.

Self-service business intelligence

For many companies, the real power of a BI platform like Sisense lies in its self-service properties. That means non-technical staff can use features such as interactive reporting, data visualizations, and sales tracking to get increased visibility into business operations.

Today’s self-service BI users can access data from various sources and get actionable insights to help make more accurate business decisions. When self-service BI is embedded into a product, often called white-labeling, customers are empowered to parse their own data, without having to know technical jargon or programming languages.

BI dashboard examples

A BI dashboard displays your data in a visual representation in order to tell a story. BI dashboards simplify complex data by presenting it in easy-to-understand ways, making it effortless to discover patterns and trends.

Dashboards used for business purposes are usually delivered through a business intelligence system like Sisense, an analytics platform. With Sisense, dashboards and actionable intelligence can be infused into apps and workflows to provide up-to-the-minute updates to users or customers in their own workspaces.

Widgets, or single units that represent one data category, provide the information that feeds data dashboard examples. In a sales dashboard environment, monthly sales would be one widget. Another could represent yearly sales, and others would show store stock and warehouse stock levels.

By displaying all of these widgets together on the dashboard, we show the business’s data story. Users can then use these business intelligence dashboards to uncover insights and make smarter decisions.

Explore our dashboard example library, sorted by industries, business goals, and role-specific:

Example Dashboard

The future of business intelligence

The world of data analytics is constantly evolving, as newer and faster technologies are created and integrated into apps and workflows. What was cutting edge last month won’t cut it next month. One way analytics will continue to evolve is not just how insights are generated but also when and how they’re presented.

Instead of requiring people to leave their workflows to get insights, infusing actionable intelligence directly to users’ processes and apps is the key to driving better business outcomes.

Another way companies are pulling ahead of the pack is by casting the widest net of datasets to draw on for their analytics. Harnessing data from disparate sources to power your latest killer app will improve your products, your business, and your bottom line.

“The challenge is that there’s no standard or right way to perform these analyses, so results and assumptions vary even within the same team,” said Ryan Segar, Sisense Global VP of Sales Engineering. “The most successful teams gain access to the largest and most robust datasets available and never stop questioning, challenging, and discovering new insights every single day.”

2021 BI & Analytics trends you need to know:

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