Business data can be scattered, and its collection can be time-consuming. Current reporting and other data-based systems are too complicated to meet the expectations of people who use them. When it comes to processing big data volumes, traditional spreadsheets are no longer able to cope with data-driven tasks. And that’s why a lot of modern companies seek new business intelligence solutions.
These solutions, when combined with ERP systems, will add value to the company’s endeavors. Among the key benefits, your business will get from BI solutions are cost savings and time saving. Besides, you can solve the following problems as well:
- Exporting information from different sources to spreadsheets
- Monitoring the data which may be related to different sources or periods
- Providing a budget and planning costs
The sectors that benefit most from combining ERP and BI software include procurement, sales and customer relations management (CRM), travel and expenses.
With proper business intelligence dashboard tools, sales pipeline becomes visible to every single department of your company. Executives are able to monitor if the sales objectives of the company are met. Visual dashboards allow detecting data errors faster and react on time as well as analyzing trends and predicting future sales and revenue.
It’s important for finance departments to provide accurate information on procurement and spending. By processing vendors data, companies get valuable insights on top manufacturers which help identify where negotiation about discounts could happen.
With proper BI tools, you can easily simplify the travel & expense reimbursement process. By implementing expense reporting, companies are able to track the segments where costs can be reduced.
What is that anyway, business intelligence?
Simply put, business intelligence is a set of computational methods and tools able to convert complex business data into readable information for people. Users leverage this information to analyze business and make data-driven decisions. Here are the main advantages of using BI tools:
Components of BI Systems
Today, there are a few business analytics platforms on the market. All of them include the following components:
ETL BI Tools
Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) tools allow you to load data into the data warehouse from various accounting systems.
Everything around us has been represented by data at some point in its life cycle. In many ways, you can imagine that a digital world of data is a representation of the physical world around us. And indeed it will be impossible for organizations to describe themselves if they did not have access to this type of data today. And just as organizations need to manage the physical assets they likewise need to manage their data assets. After all, they are a representation of a physical world. And this is where an ETL tool comes to help.
ETL tools extract data from the source, transform the data, and load the data into the target storage of choice. These movements of data can be scheduled on a regular basis. The types of projects the ETL tools are used for are very greatly as these tools turn to be very flexible. Some common projects would be rolling up transaction data for business people to work with which we commonly name data warehouses, migrating application data from legacy systems to new ones, integrating data from mergers and acquisitions, and integrating data from external suppliers or partners.
When choosing a business intelligence platform, pay attention to ETL tool features which should be as follows:
- Data connectivity. ETL tools should be able to communicate with any source of data, no matter where it comes from.
- Performance. Moving and changing data can require a serious process and power so it’s important that your ETL tools scale with its future data growth.
- Transformation flexibility. Matching, merging, and changing data is critical. ETL tools should provide these and many others package transformations that allow modifications to be made to the data with a simple drag and drop movement.
- Data quality. Your data isn’t clean. You will need support for data profiling and data quality including the ability to validate addresses. The only way you can leverage your data to deliver information is if your data is consistent and clean.
- Flexible data acquisition options.
- Committed vendor to ETL.
Data Warehouse (DWH) storage is a full-fledged SQL database for preparing and storing data for analytics.
Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes are a technology that allows you to do any reports in real time (1-5 seconds) and perform a full analysis of the data.
With the adoption of relational databases came a problem. Relational databases made it difficult to generate management reports from transactional data. If, for example, you needed to report sales for a specific month, the database server would potentially have to loop to millions of transactions in order to generate a total.
On the hardware of the day, this would often slow down the entire system to the point where it became unusable for critical operations. The reports would still be generated eventually that the whole process took far too long. OLAP was introduced as a solution to this problem. The idea behind the OLAP was to precompute all of the totals and subtotals needed for reporting. The totals as told in the special database called OLAP cube which doesn’t have to loop through any transactions because totals are already precalculated providing instant access.
An OLAP cube is a snapshot of data at a specific point of time, for example at a specific day, week, month, or year.
As a rule, users use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets connected to OLAP cubes for detailed analysis of data and building dynamic reports. For surface analysis and visualization of key indicators, web-applications are also used, which should support access to reports from any device: computer, tablet, phone.
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Who Is a Business Intelligence Developer?
A business developer is a unique profession that includes many interesting activities. As we have already defined, business intelligence is the provision of information necessary for business in a convenient and understandable form, which allows you to get an answer to a business question or make the right strategic decision.
This profession implies that you have to simultaneously immerse yourself in the business processes of different departments: finance, risks, marketing, logistics, procurement, and information technology. For example, if you work in a bank, you first need to understand finance, if in retail, then you need to understand how the trading industry works. But in the requirements for the vacancy it is “additional knowledge”, if you do not know something, you can always ask colleagues from the relevant business unit. In any case, you will really need communication skills – to make a simple report, for example, on sales, you will need to find out a lot of details.
As for business intelligence technologies, there are many different solutions that can be divided into three large blocks:
- Storage solutions
- Solutions for transforming and loading data
- Data reporting and visualization solutions
Of course, for the BI developer, the main tool is an analytical application. There are many solutions on the market, each of which has its own shortcomings and advantages, but on the whole, they are all based on one concept of the semantic layer, this layer transforms all “technical information” into business objects which the user is comfortable to work with. In other words, the analytical solution facilitates the work of the business in obtaining the necessary data to answer business questions. Also, the analytical solution allows you to automate corporate reporting, manage security and create on-the-fly reports in an intuitive interface.
Since SQL BI developer constantly works with data, and the data is stored, as a rule, in relational databases, it is necessary to know the SQL language for data management, to understand the concept of corporate data storage, data models, ETL, OLAP, and many others. With this knowledge, you can grow from a BI developer to a BI architect. You can also develop towards predictive analytics or Big Data because traditional methods are not enough to make the right decisions, and therefore the business needs to correctly forecast its processes, processing huge amounts of data.
BI Analyst Responsibilities
You might think that BI developer and BI analyst are the same jobs. However, their roles and responsibilities are not quite the same. To understand the differences, below are sample requirements for a business intelligence analyst:
- Review and validate customer data as it is collected
- Control the deployment of data to the data warehouse
- Develop policies and procedures for the data gathering and analysis
- Build or discover new data processing software
- Collaborate with IT staff to deploy software and hardware upgrades to leverage Big Data use cases
- Monitor analytics and metrics results
- Collaborate with a data architect to initiate and maintain data deployment
- Implement new data analysis methodologies
- Review customer files to ensure the integrity of data gathering
- Perform data profiling to identify and understand anomalies
As you can see, a BI analyst is a person who monitors the data collection, processing, analysis, and deployment. This specialist collaborates closely with BI developers and consultants.
If you are not afraid of difficulties and want to solve tough business problems with the help of information technology, then welcome to Business Intelligence.
Need a BI developer or an analyst? Diceus business intelligence team has a strong background in online analytical processing, SAS BI solutions, SQL programming, etc. Should you have any BI-related questions, feel free to get answers from our top BI consultant.
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