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What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the process of collecting, analyzing, and transforming data into actionable insights that organizations can use to make informed decisions. It encompasses a wide range of strategies and technologies that aim to provide accurate, timely, and relevant information to support decision-making processes.

Challenges Faced by Business Leaders and Analysts

If you’re a senior or mid-level manager or an analyst responsible for data analysis, you’re likely familiar with a set of challenges, including:

· Receiving unaggregated reports with high-level details, often presented as long lists.
· Dealing with inaccurate reports and incorrect data.
· Receiving data with significant delays, rendering it less valuable for analysis.
· Lack of data consistency and data scattered across different Excel files with varying formats and formulas.
· Even within specific departments like project planning, human resources, and finance.
· Accessing data and reports only from isolated data islands, causing a lack of synergy.
· Despite departmental overlaps, like HR, Sales, Procurement, Finance, and more.
· Waiting for extended periods, sometimes over an hour, for query processing and report generation.
· Inability to access information and reports on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
· Wasting significant time on repetitive, low-value report generation tasks.

The Significance of Data-Driven Decision-Making

Effective decision-making, grounded in precise, accurate, and timely information, is a fundamental element of success for forward-thinking organizations. In contrast, research indicates that intuitive decision-making is the primary reason for organizational failures. Consequently, distinguished studies, such as Dresner’s 2018 research, show that senior managers and operational units demand the implementation of Business Intelligence (BI) projects.

According to this research, the primary objectives for organizations implementing BI projects include improving decision-making quality, enhancing efficiency, reducing costs, and boosting revenue. While organizations have invested significantly in information technology over the past decades, a large portion of their data remains underutilized. Surprisingly, reports reveal that, on average, only 15% of data is analyzed in successful organizations. These organizations recognize data as a valuable asset, yet they struggle to harness its full potential.

In summary, the three key features of information are precision, accuracy, and timeliness, and decision-makers in organizations require these qualities to navigate the complex landscape of data-driven decisions.

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Business Intelligence (BI)?

Business Intelligence (BI): A New Perspective by Experienced
Business Intelligence (BI) encompasses processes, technologies, and solutions for transforming raw and meaningless data into precise, accurate, and timely information. BI provides direct access to data for decision-makers at all levels within an organization, enabling them to interact with and analyze data efficiently.

The term “Business Intelligence” was introduced by Howard Dresner in 1989. Mr. Dresner referred to the process of acquiring and analyzing business information as Business Intelligence. Based on reputable research by Dresner’s group, dashboards and analytical reports have become the most popular BI tools. In this context, we’ll explore Microsoft Power BI for designing and developing analytical reports and dashboards.

An Overview of Microsoft Power Business Intelligence ( BI )

In the above description, we provided a simple definition of business intelligence and its role in enhancing decision-making processes and improving efficiency. We introduced analytical reports and dashboards as popular solutions for business intelligence. Microsoft Power BI stands out as one of the best tools for designing and developing analytical reports and dashboards. This tool can be used alone or in conjunction with other Microsoft solutions like Excel and SQL Server Data Tools. According to a leading source, Gartner, Microsoft Power BI ranks among the top business intelligence tools.

Microsoft introduced Power BI in its current form on July 24, 2015. Since then, it has received monthly updates and enhancements, making the current editing capabilities incomparable to the initial version. Often, when discussing Microsoft Power BI, only its Desktop version is mentioned. However, Power BI Desktop is just one component of the Microsoft Power BI suite.

In the following sections, we’ll briefly introduce the core elements:

Power Business Intelligence ( BI ) Desktop: A Windows OS-based application that can be installed on PCs for free. It includes Power Query for ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes, as well as report design and role definition, among other features.

Power Business Intelligence ( BI ) Service: An online SaaS (Software as a Service) that forms the heart of the Microsoft Power BI suite. This service allows users to create and share dashboards, analytical reports, define access levels, and provide automatic updates, among other functionalities.

Power BI Report Server: Facilitates the storage, scheduled updates, and sharing of reports designed using Power BI Desktop within the local network.

Other components of the Microsoft Power BI suite include:

· Power BI Mobile Apps
· Power BI Gateways
· Power BI Embedded
· Power BI Visuals Marketplace
· Power BI Publisher for Excel

In subsequent content, we will delve into more detail about these components and their interactions. If you need further revisions or additional information, please let me know.
Various Reasons for Choosing Microsoft Power BI for Advancing Business Intelligence Projects There are various compelling reasons for selecting Microsoft Power BI to drive business intelligence projects.

We’ll highlight some of the most important ones:

1. Power BI is a Microsoft Product: This alone serves as a strong endorsement. It has been recognized in evaluations by Gartner and Dresner as a strategic product within Microsoft, similar to Microsoft Office.

2. Self-Service Business Intelligence: Power BI is a self-service BI tool, allowing users to access, manipulate, model data, create reports, and share them professionally. It doesn’t require specific expertise in database management systems or software. This feature has led to rapid adoption by a diverse range of users in various domains.

3. High Performance: Power BI boasts high-performance capabilities. While it’s ideal for Excel professionals, it’s not Excel. Individuals skilled in data analysis and dashboard creation in MS Excel can significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of their work by learning and employing Power BI. In the future, we’ll delve into the differences between Excel and Power BI and how they complement each other.

4. Cross-Platform Accessibility: You can view and interact with dashboards and analytical reports created with Power BI on various mobile devices, tablets, and systems. It supports data retrieval from almost any data source. Power BI features a powerful query engine with natural language support, making it attractive and practical for managers.

5. Cost-Effective: In comparison to other competing tools, Power BI is cost-effective. In future content, we’ll delve into additional features, including technical aspects.

6. An Integrated Solution: Microsoft Power BI is a suite of software services, applications, and connectors for businesses. It collaboratively transforms their disparate data sources into comprehensive, visual, and interactive information.

7. Business Analytics Service: It’s a business analytics service that provides extensive insights for informed decision-making, aiding managers in enhancing organizational performance.
In the upcoming content, we will thoroughly explore these capabilities and features. If you require further adjustments or additional information, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Microsoft Power BI in a Nutshell:

In general, Power BI:

· Deals with data analysis.
· Transforms data into compelling visuals and shares them with colleagues across various devices.
· Collaborates in creating custom dashboards, interactive reports, and facilitates sharing.
· Establishes organization-wide scalability through built-in rules and security.

Reason for Creating the Power BI Software:

Organizations consist of various departments, leading to scattered data. Power BI was developed to integrate these fragmented data sources into a central management hub, enhancing overall performance. For those concerned about performance management in their organizations, this software became a necessity. In Power BI, organizational infrastructure is crucial as it dictates where data, information, and data resources originate.

Organizational infrastructure arises from the maturity of the organization itself. The way data is stored plays a significant role in achieving this maturity. Organizations in the lower maturity level tend to store data in different files with no resemblance. As the organization matures, data storage becomes more similar, but data reporting remains scattered. However, in highly mature organizations, data silos disappear, unit structures harmonize, and it becomes easy to create dashboards and analytical reports. Power BI excels in organizations at the highest maturity level, delivering high performance. Senior managers, operational units (projects), sales managers, and financial managers are among those most interested in implementing Power BI in their organizations.

The Four Main Steps in Developing Business Intelligence ( BI ):

1. Data Discovery: Connects to various sources to extract data and imports it into Power BI Desktop.

2. Data Transformation: Modifies, cleans, and integrates data.

3. Visualization: After achieving data integration, data modeling is done, followed by data visualization.

4. Distribution of Reports: Once dashboards are ready and reports are prepared, they need to be published within the organization.

Two Types of Reports Created Using Business Intelligence ( BI ):

1. Dashboards: These provide an overview of the current issues within the organization, alerting managers. Dashboards generally don’t include in-depth analysis.
It’s important to note that dashboards should not contain more than six charts or visual elements.
2. Analytical Reports: These focus on analyzing and understanding the issues that dashboards alert the organization about. They provide an in-depth analysis of the problems.

When creating analytical reports, consider the following:

· Purpose: Ensure the report has a clear and accurate objective.
· Visual Elements: Choose the right visuals for the report.
· Layout: When modifying column positions and numbers, avoid creating discrepancies in the final results.
· Consistency: Maintain consistency in calculations and the use of appropriate colors in the report.

Author: Arash Beyazian Serkandi & Hamid Hoseinnasab

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Topic: What is Business Intelligence (BI)?