BI is about delivering relevant information to the right people at the right time with the goal to achieve better decisions faster.

For this purpose, BI requires methods and programs to collect and instruct data converted into information and used to improve business decisions. BI systems present data in a meaningful, actionable way. Forrester gives a more formal definition of Business Intelligence - “a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational insights and decision-making”.

Business intelligence is a large and complex field including functions like reporting, online analytical processing, data mining, process mining, event processing, performance management, predictive and prescriptive analytics, predictive modelling, text mining and benchmarking.

Cindi Howson, VP of Research, Business intelligence, data & analytics at Gartner, distinguishes between two types of Business Intelligence: traditional and modern. Traditional or classic BI uses internal data to extract insights. In modern BI, users interact with agile, more intuitive systems to analyse data. Organisations typically use traditional BI methods to generate regulatory or financial reports where data accuracy is of utmost importance. Modern BI tools are useful to extract information from quickly changing dynamics or marketing events where accuracy is not primordial.

BI systems are used to spot inefficiencies; discover strengths and weaknesses, and capture business opportunities.  In retail companies use BI it to generate repeat business. Every transaction of an in-store or online client generates data that, when analysed, leads to insights about product preferences, buying habits, and brand loyalty. The company uses data to anticipate customer needs and preferences, to deliver better customer service and to personalise marketing messages.

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According to Forbes, the tech disruptions that will affect BI in 2019 are:

1. Automation

BI has been significantly impacted by digital transformation. Many companies have had their traditional data centres moved from hardware-based systems to virtual systems and the cloud.

2. Storytelling with data

BI helps companies to extract knowledge and understanding from vast amounts of unstructured data. The next generation of BI tools will incorporate graphs, video, images to create an informative and engaging experience.

3. Mobility

The role of mobile BI is to make data more accessible on mobile devices. However, many BI applications have failed to adapt to mobile, bringing the same experience from computers to mobile devices and thus creating a difficult to use solution. In the future, companies will invest more in making data accessible through mobile devices. This change will be achieved by reducing data complexity and using predictive analysis for mobile user devices.

4. Natural language query

With the increased development of NLQ, companies will favour voice-activated assistants like Alexa and Siri in the detriment of text search to retrieve data.

Natural language processing (NLP) is the technology behind voice assistants like Siri which allows the application to understand what is asked and respond in an intelligible way.NLP is one of the systems that contribute to the democratisation of data, namely making data more accessible and easier to understand. Users with no formal training in BI or familiarity with software will be able to obtain the correct information by simply asking the voice-activated assistants a question like “What were the earnings of the last three quarters? The system will be able to provide an intelligible answer rather than displaying data that users will have to interpret.

5. User interface

For many years business analytics have used dashboards to present data. User interfaces will face a radical change in the next few years. Updated versions of user interfaces will enable data analysis on any devices. Some user interfaces will incorporate email and unified communications as a service.

In 2019, BI will continue to adapt to the technological disruption. More companies will choose to store data on virtual systems or the cloud. The next generation of BI systems will be more user-friendly and interactive for all users, especially on mobile devices. With this purpose, companies will have to build applications optimised for mobile, given the increased popularity of voice-activated assistants over text search.