Business Intelligence: Planning for Today and Tomorrow with Traditional and Modern BI Tools

Business Intelligence (BI) is the lifeblood of an organization. Without business intelligence, the enterprise does not have an objective understanding of what works, what does not work, and how, when and where to make changes to adapt to the market, its customers and its competition.

You may be interested to know that TechJury reports seven out of ten businesses rate data discovery as very important, and that the top three business intelligence trends are data visualization, data quality management and self-service business intelligence.

As the Business Intelligence solution market evolves, it may be difficult for an organization to know when to invest in these tools, and which tools are best for enterprise and user needs. In this article, we will define traditional and modern Business Intelligence, discuss the benefits of implementing BI tools within your organization and provide some examples of how BI tools can be used to address real-world business use cases.

We will also provide some primary considerations for planning a business intelligence project, and for selecting the right BI tools to meet the needs of your organization.

How Do We Define Business Intelligence Today?

Before we dive into the details, let’s establish a solid definition of Business Intelligence and talk a bit about the types of business intelligence software.

What is Business Intelligence?

TechTarget defines business intelligence this way: ‘Business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and delivering actionable information that helps executives, managers and workers make informed business decisions.’

Business Intelligence is derived from systems, software, data warehouses, data in cloud storage, and other data sources and used to drive fact-based decisions to improve productivity and competitive positioning, and to increase revenue, customer satisfaction and other factors that figure into the success of the enterprise. BI tools leverage analytics and reporting, help the enterprise manage data and user access and plan for the future.

Business intelligence is built upon historical data, real-time data and raw data that is prepared and cleaned, integrated and analyzed to produce reports and information that is used to make confident decisions.

Let’s take a look at the differences between traditional and modern business intelligence:

Traditional Business Intelligence (BI)

Traditional BI tools include dashboards, reporting templates and formats, tools to establish and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and data visualization techniques. This approach typically focuses on descriptive analytics based on historical data to answer the question “What happened?” or What is happening?.

Modern Business Intelligence (BI)

Modern business intelligence (BI) tools focus on helping users easily access and share data, and giving them the ability to use data to drive intelligent action, and to achieve real-world results. It includes predictive and prescriptive analytics and is used to gain insight into data and plan for the future using sophisticated features like key influencer analytics, sentiment analysis, embedded business intelligence,  assisted predictive modeling, anomaly alerts, natural language processing (NLP) for simple search analytics and other features.

‘Usability will dictate user adoption, return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) as well as the overall success of your business intelligence project.’

The primary difference between traditional and modern BI lies in flexibility and accessibility. In the past, BI tools were designed for use by analysts or IT staff and these features were not accessible to business users nor did they provide guided, auto-recommendations in a natural language environment.

The world-renowned technology research firm, Gartner, has predicted that ‘smart/augmented, non-relational, search and visual-based data discovery capabilities will converge into a single set of next-generation data discovery capabilities as components of modern BI and analytics platforms.’ And that is exactly what is happening!

Modern BI solutions allow for and support user adoption, and deliver more benefit, better return on investment (ROI), and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) by empowering business users and holding each team member accountable for results.

The modern BI environment provides a foundation of data source integration, sophisticated analytical models and techniques and an easy-to-use, intuitive interface with auto-suggestions and recommendations for analytical techniques and report formats and publishing tools, alerts and analysis sharing that are easy for the average business user to adopt.

Benefits of Business Intelligence

There are many benefits of business intelligence, and these benefits provide support for users and for the organization at large. Gathering data and analyzing that data to make accurate, timely decisions is key to business success, and business intelligence solutions are designed to engender that success with self-serve business intelligence features and functionality that make it easier to derive information and make sense of that information quickly and easily.

What is self-serve BI? Self-serve business intelligence provides an analytics approach that is accessible to business users. Built for intuitive use with no requirement for data science or business analytical skills, self-serve BI allows team members to explore and analyze data using sophisticated features in a user-friendly environment that encourages user adoption. This approach to analytics offers Many Benefits To The Business And To Its Business Users and stakeholders.

Benefits of Business Intelligence for the Enterprise

Data Democratization – Business Intelligence (BI) software enables data democratization. What is data democratization? Put simply, data democratization enables every team member in a business to work with and understand data without technical or statistical training or knowledge. Users can make data-driven decisions and collaborate with other team members using data derived from systems, solutions, and other data repositories.

Data Literacy – The organization can roll-out self-serve business intelligence to enable data democratization and data access for business users, thereby encouraging data literacy. What is data literacy? Data literacy describes an individual’s competence as it relates to understanding, creating, sharing and communicating data results. MIT Management Sloan School Reports that ‘a  recent Gartner Survey of chief data officers found that poor data literacy is one of the top three barriers in building strong data and analytics teams, while a Data Literacy Survey by Accenture of more than 9,000 employees in a variety of roles found that only 21% were confident in their data literacy skills.’

Building for the Future – Leveraging traditional and modern business intelligence allows the enterprise to build for the future with a path to predictive analytics and the expanded features and capabilities of sophisticated augmented analytics.

Collaboration – Business Intelligence (BI) tools allow the enterprise to encourage and engender collaboration and the sharing of data to make new product decisions, plan for new locations and resources, reduce downtime and re-work and more. BI tools with self-serve data preparation, data visualization and forecasting capabilities allow the enterprise to support data scientists, business analysts, IT professionals and business users with tools that are appropriate for use by all team members.

Benefits of Business Intelligence for the Business User

Enabling Citizen Data Scientists – With self-serve BI, business users can transform into Citizen Data Scientists. They will no longer have to wait for IT or data scientists to produce reports that are delayed by other priorities, and arrive outdated or incomplete. They can use data on a daily basis to test theories, share and collaborate, and can receive alerts to inform them when thresholds are crossed or issues need resolution or analysis.

Data-Driven Decisions – Decisions are no longer based on opinion or guesswork, but rather on facts and analysis. Recommendations and suggestions can be supported by analytics and metrics, rather than persuasion.

Timely, Accurate Action – Business users can take action quickly to resolve issues and to capitalize on opportunities. They no longer have to wait for support or assistance from others within the organization. This improved agility, provides the opportunity for improved productivity and collaboration.

Increased Innovation and Creativity – Your enterprise can encourage business users to become power users of data and to use that data to create a story, to develop a new product approach, to create a more successful, targeted marketing or advertising campaign, and to prototype ideas and concepts without risk or re-work.

Business Intelligence Business Use Cases

When we talk about Users In Business Analytics, it is sometimes difficult for an organization to imagine how team members might use self-serve business intelligence to address actual business issues, problems and challenges. Business intelligence projects are not difficult to justify but, when an organization has been doing something the same way for a long time, it is sometimes easier to convince the enterprise to change if one can actually present examples.

Here are some business intelligence examples and business use cases that may give you a better understanding of how BI tools can be used to improve outcomes, refine an approach or increase success. Understanding how BI tools can be used by your team on a daily basis will help your enterprise to comprehend the importance of business intelligence and how it can help you in a very tangible way.


Customer Churn – Users can analyze which customers in California are likely to choose another supplier or drop a product or service in the next two quarters. Avoiding customer attrition and churn is the goal of every business. Attracting new customers is always more expensive and more difficult than retaining those you have and building on that relationship.

Customer Targeting – Find those customers who will respond to a discount or an offer and how to send that offer, e.g., text message, email or phone call. Spending money and resources to target customers who will never respond to your outreach is foolish, time-consuming and expensive. Targeting your messages and offers to the right customers and demographics is crucial.

Product and Service Cross-Selling and/or Up-Selling – If a customer buys an item from the baked goods aisle, are they likely to purchase whipped cream if you give them a coupon for a 10% discount? Bundling products and upselling and cross-selling allows the business to build on a sale, and increase revenue.

Fraud Mitigation – Does fraud occur more often in households with 2-4 people or 4-6 people? Understanding where and when fraud will occur and how to identify the most probable factors that will predict fraud can save the organization a lot of money and risk.

Loan Approval – Which customers are likely to default on a variable rate loan vs. a fixed rate loan? Imagine being able to offer the right loan to the right people so that everyone wins? Who is more likely to fulfill a fixed rate loan and who will benefit the most from a variable rate loan? Understanding when and how applicants are likely to default on a particular type of loan is key to success.

Marketing Optimization – Is ROI better for above the line or below the line advertising for iced tea sales in Kentucky, Illinois and Arizona?

Online Target Marketing – Which lipstick product marketing campaign will be more effective for our target market: Facebook, Google AdWords or X? Don’t spend a lot of time and effort advertising in a venue that isn’t likely to bring results. Understanding your target audience, where they spend the most time and what they respond to is important to achieving your marketing goals.

Predictive Analytics Using External Data – How will projected rainfall or drought in Kansas affect our sales of corn during the summer months of the coming year? Don’t be caught short. Understand how external factors might impact your sales. Are there weather factors at play? How about the time of year and how a holiday might affect sales of a particular item?


Human Resource Attrition – The enterprise can also use BI tools to analyze internal issues like human resource attrition and find out which employees are likely to leave the company within two-years of joining. Attracting and keeping employees is critical. It costs a lot of money to advertise, interview, hire and train. Anticipate what makes your team unhappy, and why and when they leave.

Demand Planning – How many units of chocolate ice cream will we need to satisfy demand in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey in November? Don’t get caught short on supplies. Lost sales and revenue can kill your business. Don’t oversupply. You don’t want to pay to manufacture items you can’t sell.

Maintenance Management – How often should Production Stamper #1 undergo routine maintenance to reduce downtime by 20%? Downtime costs the company money. Refine your maintenance schedule and keep your equipment running so you can optimize your profits.

Quality Control – Which home improvement product control issue is responsible for the greatest product rejection? Is one product holding you up? Perhaps there are a couple of products that cause the most issues. What are the issues and how can you get to the root cause?

If you can develop and generate specific business use cases that apply to your enterprise and its issues, it will be easier for your management and your team to understand the value of these tools and your business users will want to adopt these tools because they will see how BI tools can help them fulfill their responsibilities and more easily complete tasks with accuracy and efficiency.

Planning for Adoption of Business Intelligence

Once you have made the decision to implement a business intelligence (BI) solution, or to upgrade the solution currently in place in your organization, you must plan for that implementation and deployment. Without the appropriate planning, even the best vendor and solution selection is likely to go wrong. In order to succeed in any software implementation or to make a major change to business processes and workflow, you must analyze your existing technology landscape and business processes and ensure that you have addressed all concerns, issues and obstacles. In this section, we provide a few of the primary factors and issues you will need to include in your planning process.

Technology Review and Requirements

If you already have a business intelligence solution, you will have to consider the technology underpinning, the solution itself, who is using it and how well it serves your needs. If there are gaps in the features, functionality or usability, you must identify those. If you will need new hardware, software or network capability, you will need to define those needs.

If you do not have a business intelligence solution and you are starting from scratch, you will have to review your existing technology landscape, your hardware, software integration needs, data storage and repositories, network and IT team skills. You must also look at your business users and develop a strategy to engage them and identify their needs (see User Involvement and Adoption, below). Build a picture of what you will need to fix, upgrade or change in your technology landscape before you can roll-out your BI tools, and plan your roll-out (see Roll-Out and Deployment, below). The more detailed your review and requirements are, the more likely you are to succeed. You must identify any challenges, issues and opportunities and have a plan to address those before you choose a vendor and solution. This roadmap will allow you to engage prospective IT partners with a comprehensive understanding of what you need and you can more easily determine which vendor and solution will be the best fit for your requirements.

User Involvement and Adoption

Do not make the mistake of leaving your business users out of the equation. In order to make this project a success, you will need them to embrace and adopt the solution you choose and to willingly change their business processes and workflow to include analytics and the use of BI tools. Find out the pain points your users have and determine how BI tools can help to address those. Any new software solution will meet with resistance, and any change in known and familiar workflow will meet with resistance. BUT if you can find and address your business user hot buttons – those things that slow them down and make their job more difficult, you will be well on your way to user acceptance.

Be sure to develop business use cases that you can leverage to show your users and their managers how these tools can be useful to them in getting the job done more efficiently. As with any cultural change in an organization, you will want to review the employee evaluation process and add analytics to the list. When and how business users embrace and leverage analytics should be seen as a positive factor in evaluation and in career advancement. If you want to encourage users to become Citizen Data Scientists, to develop skills and become a power user and to be creative and collaborative in their use of BI tools, you must support this concept in evaluations and in day-to-day workflow.

Roll-Out and Deployment

For a smaller organization, the roll-out of BI tools might occur all at once. For a larger enterprise, it might be done by division, by region or by department or function. What will make the most sense? Keep in mind that the first group to use the business intelligence solution and analytical tools can become a role model and a champion for future users.

Whether you choose to appoint this group to help future users as they come on board, or you will look to an IT partner to help you with training plans, etc., you should have a thorough understanding of your need for resources and the timing of roll-out and deployment to mitigate downtime, to coincide with work schedules so you do not penalize business users by adding new concepts when they are in a time crunch, etc.

What additional resources, if any, will you need to deploy this software and how you will introduce it to the team?

Upgrades and Future Concerns

Nothing is constant…except for change. There is no doubt that business intelligence and analytics will continue to evolve and that your needs as an organization will grow. When you are planning for implementation of business intelligence, be sure to plan for the future. The way in which you plan for and execute your technology landscape and the mix and combination of tools, systems and resources, will dictate your ability to shift easily and to adapt.

Some BI tools and services are easier to build on than others. If you establish the right foundation of products and services, you can be confident that your approach will allow you to flex to change and to upgrade as new technologies and features become available.

When considering products and services, look for those that can be easily upgraded. Avoid cumbersome customization that must be accommodated to accomplish a bug fix or an upgrade.

While you cannot anticipate every change in your organization, you can anticipate that there WILL be changes. So, set your sights on a plan that allows you to be flexible to change and to new technologies and capabilities.

Selecting a Business Intelligence Solution

You have a good understanding of business intelligence (BI), the importance of this concept for businesses and business users and the various aspects and factors to be considered in planning a BI implementation. Now it is time to talk about solutions.

Your business has high hopes for its business intelligence implementation and it anticipates many benefits, a good return on investment (ROI) and low total cost of ownership (TCO). But that doesn’t happen without the right business intelligence tools and the right business intelligence solution providers.


All business intelligence companies are not the same. The vendor you choose does matter. Even if the solution suite is the best around, if the vendor does not provide appropriate communication, reporting and support, you are on your own in solving problems (if and when there are any) and in the day-to-day use of the product. Look for a vendor with proven stability, experience and skill. You want to know that they will continue to invest in their product and services to grow with your business. The vendor should maintain a team environment, and a custom and partner focus with 24/7 services and support and a quality environment that ensures cutting-edge, dependable products. Look at licensing and support plans and be sure that you have access to affordable tools and services. Business intelligence services and solutions start with a solid foundation of customer focus and a proven quality approach to products and services.

Solution Suite

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are different types of BI tools. For most businesses, it is difficult to decide between traditional business intelligence and modern business intelligence, because there are elements of both that are helpful to the business and to its users. For many business intelligence users, BI Dashboard Tools will be just as important as the more advanced analytical tools like assisted predictive modeling.

Rather than choosing between traditional and modern BI tools, look for a vendor that provides both. The best self-serve business intelligence tools allow the business to satisfy the most basic needs of a business user and the needs of a business analyst or data scientist.

Traditional BI Tools include dashboards, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Reporting, graphs and charts.

Modern BI Tools include Smart Data Visualization, Self-Serve Data Preparation, assisted Predictive Analytics, anomaly alerts and natural language processing (NLP) search analytics. Features like Embedded BI allow users to access analytics from within their favorite enterprise applications using  single sign-on access, improving user adoption and return on investment (ROI) for existing technologies and applications.

Self-serve business intelligence software is a must. If you wish to engender data democratization and data literacy and support Citizen Data Scientists, the best business intelligence software for you will be self-serve business intelligence software.

It is important to choose a vendor and a solution that has its eye on the future. With new, cutting-edge technologies announced every day, you will want to select a partner that can ensure your growth and provide advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), low-code and no-code development and other advancements in analytics, techniques and concepts.


Solution usability is key to user adoption. Choose a solution that is intuitive and easy to learn. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on training. The BI tools you select should be simple and user-friendly BUT they must also be sophisticated with advanced analytics and analytical techniques that will provide comprehensive results.

Results must be displayed with flexible controls. For example, smart visualization should allow the user to see suggested visual displays based on the type and volume of the data that is being analyzed. Simple search technologies like natural language processing (NLP) search analytics will allow business users to ask questions using common human language and receive answers in the same way, so there is no need for coding, programming or analytical queries and there is not issue with unclear or misinterpreted results.

Usability will dictate user adoption, return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) as well as the overall success of your business intelligence project.

‘Without business intelligence, the enterprise does not have an objective understanding of what works, what does not work, and how, when and where to make changes to adapt to the market, its customers and its competition.’

In this article, we have summarized the concept of business intelligence, its use in business, its advantages and the factors you will need to include in your planning and solution and service selection.

Find out how business intelligence and analytics Technology can support your enterprise, improve business user Data Literacy, and ensure analytical clarity and results with seamless, Intuitive Business Intelligence And Reporting. Discover the next level of self-serve analytics with Augmented Analytics and explore the features and modules to see how your business can use analytics to achieve its goals.

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