Business intelligence has evolved over the years due to several factors such as breakthroughs in technology, big data, and a more dynamic business landscape. As such, business intelligence tools cover a wide variety of systems and applications, but commonly include the capability to handle huge volumes of data, display information that can be interpreted easily, and provide users with insight to support business decisions. BI tools enable companies identify new opportunities, understand their customers better, track and optimize their performance, and compare data against competitors.
What is business intelligence software?
Business intelligence software is software that can retrieve, extract, transform, load, combine, analyze, and report data from several sources with the goal to turn data to insightful information that can be acted upon by users. It can analyze historical data, track current data, and make forecasts. BI software can retrieve data from multiple sources, even external sources such as market information, and combine it with internal company data to provide a comprehensive picture. This intelligence allows companies to better understand the business landscape, act on that knowledge, and outsmart competitors to attract more and better serve their customers.
Typical features in business intelligence software
Business intelligence depends primarily on data. The best BI tools are able to pull data automatically or on-demand from a variety of sources. Others aggregate data in different formats, clean them structurally, and place them in a common data storage, ready for retrieval. Centralized solutions make use of data warehouses or data marts and extract, transform, and load (ETL) software, also know as integration services, to manage the data storage. BI tools are also able to analyze and uncover trends, present data in formatted reports and visual dashboards, compare performance using historical data against current data or internal data against competitor data, and use other analytical processes to describe situations more clearly.
Top business intelligence tools and software
Today, the market is full of options for users looking for the best business intelligence software. We present our top recommendations of the best BI software based on reviews from multiple sites, customer feedback, features, support, and market ranking. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but rather a good starting point to help you find the top options. As always, the best business intelligence tools are the right tools for your business, your goals, your employees, and your customers.
SAP Business Intelligence
SAP Business Intelligence includes tools and software that can be deployed on premise or in the cloud. These include Analytics Cloud, BusinessObjects BI suite, and Crystal solutions. Features include self-service tools, data modeling, data exploration and visualization, role-based dashboards, and reporting. The software also integrates with Microsoft Office to extend the power of Excel to analyze large data sets or embed data analytics information in PowerPoint presentations.
Tableau is a business intelligence and analytics software used by businesses of all sizes. It can be used by the individual analyst or deployed by teams and organizations at scale as a BI platform. The analytics software can also be embedded by users through integration and customized to give their customers an interactive way to explore and find insights. The BI tool can retrieve most types of data and provide an intuitive user experience with powerful visualizations.
SEMrush is an online visibility management platform for marketing teams. Although designed for marketing professionals, it provides tools and reports that help users improve online visibility and discover marketing insights. It is ideal for SEO, pay-per-click, social media marketing, keyword research, competitive research, content marketing, and campaign management. Companies can make use of expanded geo databases or an industry specific database, and access a selection of customizable reports.
SAS Business Intelligence
SAS business intelligence and analytics software helps users get the right information at the right time. Self-service features allow anyone to integrate the software to other tools and discover data on their own. Other features include visual data exploration tools, easy-to-use analytics, do-it-yourself interactive reporting and dashboards that can be shared, and collaboration using integration with other tools like Outlook and Excel.
Esri ArcGIS is a geographic information mapping, location intelligence, and spatial analytics software. It is a powerful tool for creating interactive maps to visualize and explore data. The software includes powerful analysis tools, map styles, custom symbols, and basemaps. Users can map their data, interact with it, understand it better, enhance it by combining with other data, personalize the maps, and share insights.
Klipfolio is a business dashboard software that provides users with essential metrics, meaningful dashboards, and actionable reports. Features include a report builder tool that automates reporting with data exported from dashboards. The dashboards and reports can be shared by giving access to others, downloading visualization images as PDF files, and sharing a custom PMCOM. Reports can be scheduled and embedded into websites or other applications.
IBM Cognos Analytics
Cognos Analytics is the business intelligence product offered by IBM to help users discover data and share insights using visualizations. It has a built-in AI that allow for easier data preparation, analysis, and visualization to derive actionable insights—including through a mobile device. It has automations, is scalable, and can be deployed on-premise, in the cloud, and together with other IBM products.
Oracle BI is an enterprise analytics solution that enables users to collect, integrate, analyze, and present business information. It combines governed, centralized, and self-service analytics tools so users can see all their business data to gain insights that help them make informed decisions. The software includes data visualization extensions, mobile functionality, voice-enabled search, and in-memory enhancements.
Zoho Analytics is a self-service business intelligence and analytics software. It provides users a tool to analyze their data with visualizations to discover hidden insights. The software lets you retrieve and blend data from a wide range of sources to create reports and dashboards. A drag-and-drop designer allows users to create different data visualization tools, get assistance from an AI, and collaborate with colleagues by sharing or publishing reports securely.
Microsoft Power BI
Power BI is a business intelligence and data visualization tool. It is a scalable solution that can accommodate a small team up to the entire organization. The BI tool includes hundreds of data visualizations, built-in AI capabilities, Excel integration, and prebuilt and custom data connectors. Self-service allows users to find and share insights while data loss prevention features keep data secure and compliant.