Business Intelligence (or BI as it is commonly known) is the reporting of corporate data using a variety of methodologies meant to give timely, accurate and in-depth knowledge of a organization’s performance. These methodologies may include dashboards for a visual depiction of corporate performance, metrics and scorecards to indicate when performance is on or off target, data warehouses to serve as highly optimized stores of data for fast and efficient reporting, and data cubes which are structured for dimensional (or OLAP) analysis. Another feature that is sometimes included is data mining which delves into data looking for correlations. A BI environment at minimum contains some sort of reporting system and can also include any number of the other features mentioned.
The idea behind BI is to make data accessible and easy to understand. It must correctly reflect the reality of the business, so data quality control is also a key consideration.
Many software vendors have complete lines of Business Intelligence tools, including IBM Cognos, Microsoft, Oracle, Business Objects and SAP just to name a few. Each tool pertains to a particular task in the BI environment, and usually a suite will tie them all together. For example, in Cognos there is Reporting Studio for generating reports, Analysis Studio for OLAP analysis of data cubes, Metrics Studio for KPIs and scorecards, Events Studio for handling certain system activities, Planning for scenario analysis, Framework Manager for data modeling, Transformer for data cube generation, and Data Manager for data warehouse generation. All of these tools are pulled together by Cognos 8, which is the reporting portal. It is not uncommon for companies to employ a multi-vendor solution and so these tools often need to work together. For example, a source system might be on an Oracle platform which may be read by Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services and then reported by Cognos 8.