An Introduction to Microsoft Business Intelligence Tools

Owning and operating a business isn’t always easy, especially in an era where virtually all businesses operate in part online. Whether you advertise online, use the cloud for data storage, or run a retail site, your business’s online presence contributes heavily to the amount of data it generates. And even predominantly-offline organisations generate huge amounts of data, too. Business intelligence is all about helping businesses do more with their data, and Microsoft’s business intelligence tools are the ideal way to help them do it.

What are Business Intelligence Tools?

Business intelligence is about using data to describe the current state of any aspect of a business. And by putting that data in its proper historical context, it can also show how that current state came to be. For instance, in sales, it can show sales figures over a day, week or month, and compare those figures to selected points in the past.

Business intelligence tools are simply the software tools that are used to collect, store, organise, and display the vast amounts of data that are collected. These tools gather data from various sources—from books, journals, and documents, to records, files, images, multi-media, and other sources. They process the data in various ways to make it more manageable, so that users can run queries, generate reports, and find the answers to their questions.

Just as important, with the right business intelligence tools, data gathering, organisation, and extraction means that all of this can be done more easily and more quickly than would otherwise be possible. This is, essentially, what Microsoft’s business intelligence tools are for.

About Microsoft Business Intelligence

Microsoft Business Intelligence is a suite of tools that have been purpose-designed and built to make data processing easier. The enormous amounts of data that a business generates can get messy very quickly, and in its raw form, that data is more or less unusable. With Microsoft’s Business Intelligence suite, that data can be rendered into usable information. The simplicity of the suite and its ease of use make it one of the most popular business intelligence tools available.

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Power BI is Microsoft’s main business intelligence-focused software app. It uses both desktop and cloud-based tools, with different tiers and pricing structures available to help meet the needs of every business.

The Power BI Desktop tier is a free version that’s perfect for businesses that want a low-cost tool for building out reports, or that want a low-risk entry into using business intelligence. The Power Pro tier offers users more functionality and control, while Power BI Premium, the top-tier version, is designed for large-scale analytics for larger organisations. With varying levels of utility, each version allows the user to generate and publish reports, share information, and more.

Microsoft Business Intelligence Tools that Meet Everyone’s Needs

The Microsoft business intelligence suite has three main toolsets, each aimed at different kinds of users. There’s self-service business intelligence, aimed at analysts and end users; corporate business intelligence, for IT professionals, and advanced analytics, which is designed for data scientists. Each different toolset provides different ways of processing data, according to the kinds of data visualisations that are most important.

In each case the same basic tools are used, including Excel, SharePoint, and SQL Server, as well as Microsoft Power BI, to work with data. Each group of people can use these tools in different ways to get the outcomes they need.

Self-service business intelligence is an approach that’s designed for people who don’t have a strong background in statistical analysis. With this approach, virtually anyone can use Microsoft’s business intelligence suite in ways that allow them to access and work with data. With this approach, the user can:

  • Easily find and access corporate data.
  • Create useful data models.
  • Perform predictive analytics.
  • Explore and visualise data.
  • Use natural language queries to ask questions.
  • Access reports, even on mobile devices.
  • Collaborate and share using SharePoint.

Corporate business intelligence

These users are IT or business intelligence specialists. They usually have a higher level of tech skill than the average self-service user, and are using the software to create highly sophisticated reports that are often built using specialised query languages. While self-serve users tend to generate data for their own use or for departmental use, corporate users generate reports that are often heavily used across an entire organisation. This means they’re just as likely to be using SQL to work with data as they are Power BI.

Advanced analytics

These users are utilizing business intelligence tools and techniques for predictive purposes. Typically, this involves data mining and predictive analytics to find patterns that might serve as the basis for predictions on future performance. Microsoft’s business intelligence tools allow the analytics-focused user to find patterns, forecast trends, develop rules and recommendations, and gain new insights into how a business might evolve. This kind of work is typically done primarily using SQL Server and Excel.

Interested in business intelligence tools for your organisation? Contact ACUTEC today.

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