7 Interesting and Unexpected Uses of Business Intelligence Tools

Business Intelligence tools are helping businesses make sense of their data and plan for the future.
Christopher McFadden

Business Intelligence tools are helping businesses streamline their activities and improve sales. But their incredible power to analyze and report on large data sets is being leveraged by many other sectors too. 

Here we explore what BI tools are, how they are used and also showcase a few examples of industries making good use of them.


What is the use of BI tools?

Business Intelligence tools, BI for short, are any of a series of software tools, usually standalone, that are tailored to specific industries. These tools are used to retrieve, analyze and report on data that is used for further decision making.

These tools enable a business to query a set of data, aka "Big Data", to provide insightful and actionable business information. This provides a business management team the ability to see the big picture and plan accordingly. 

"BI compiles a company’s most essential data so employees can focus on answering crucial questions. Access to data allows for fast decision making and an edge over the competition.

The dashboards and reports created with BI tools can have far-reaching effects." - betterbuys.com

For this reason, they are very powerful tools, if used correctly, and are highly sought after by many companies. In fact, according to a report by Gartner, total spending on BI tools was forecast to surpass 17 Billion dollars by the end of 2016. 

This shows that businesses are very interested in efficiently analyzing data to help make data-driven decisions for their business activities. 

Why do we need BI tools?

As we have already seen, BI tools offer a powerful solution to a business's ability to plan for the future. They help to produce accurate reports by extracting relevant data from a particular data source. 

Modern BI solutions help save time too for business analysts by greatly speeding up the process of consolidating and making sense of data points. 

"Since BI tools can produce recent data, it allows managers to monitor businesses in real-time. A BI solution provides real-time reports directly to managers on-demand from any location.

This helps to reduce the scope of error by providing managers with accurate data to make better decisions on what is happening now and to forecast for the future. 

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BI solutions also focus on providing data security by using existing established security infrastructures to keep data private." - paristech.com.

What companies use BI?

As you'd expect many larger multi-nationals and corporations have been using BI tools for years. Some of the most prominent include, but are not limited to (courtesy of tekleaders.com): -

  • Netflix Uses Business Intelligence to Improve Recommendations. 
  • YES BANK Improves Internal Communications. 
  • American Express Detects Fraud with BI Software.

Why BI is important?

"Adapt or die" as the famous adage goes. This is as true for living creatures as it is for a business.

Those businesses that unable to adapt to change can, and usually will, go bust very quickly. This is where BI can offer a business a sort of insurance policy to identify trends and adapt appropriately. 

But it's not all just about a matter of survival. BI can be used to help identify future opportunities for the business to expand into or exploit. 

If used effectively, BI (and staff training) can improve decision making significantly at all levels of a business. It can, for example, help a business: -

  • Gain insights into consumer behavior
  • To Turn Data into Actionable Information:
  • To Improve Efficiency:
  • To Gain Sales & Market Intelligence
  • To Gain Competitive Intelligence

7 unexpected examples of Business Intelligence tools

So without further ado, here are 7 examples of industries that are exploiting the power offered by BI tools. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. BI for University admissions

Universities have started using BI/BA tools to help with student admissions. They have, for example, used them to leverage their existing data to help them reach enrollment goals. 

BI applications in business
Source: Erikona/iStock

Universities and other higher education institutions query their data to look for insights into different aspects of student life to help improve their customer's experience. This is especially true for first-year students.

This helps administrators reduce student dropout rates and helps them address low GPAs.

2. The Federal Government is also in on the act

With a plethora of ever-growing data, governments are in dire need of BI solutions to help them make sense of it all. This is exactly what the Federal Government did back in 2012. 

The then Obama administration released a memorandum that directed the Executive Departments and Agencies, to utilize emerging technologies to streamline public service.

The hope was to help streamline decision making and help make some of the data open source for information and reduce administration costs. 

3. Cruise liners are also implementing BI tools

Bi in business cruise liner
Source: oatsy40/Flickr

Cruise Liner companies are also making use of BI tools to improve their bottom line. Through clever use of BI, they are able to improve customer retention and improve the likelihood of more of them coming back for more. 

By using BI tools to mine data and produce statistical models they are able to better predict a customer's behavior in the future. 

"By looking at different aspects of the cruise experience, these cruise lines can increase the [number] of people who will sail with them again." - Saint Joseph's University

4. Video games are also using BI

Many video game producers, and platform manufacturers, are using BI to help gain insights into their user's habits online. The massive data sets they have been able to garner thanks to the explosion in popularity of MMORPG games are reaping benefits.

By using BI tools, they are able to create targeting marketing and production strategies for particular demographics amongst their users. This not only enables them to not only improve sales but also helps them plan for future releases. 

5. Coffee shops, like Starbucks, are taking advantage of BI

uses of BI starbucks
Source: JohnFScott/iStock

Another interesting application of BI is Starbucks. Through their Loyalty Card Program, they are able to collate and analyze masses of data about their customers. 

This enables them to use the information to predict what purchases and offers an individual customer is likely to be interested in. Through regular push messages and other alerts, Starbucks is able to tempt customers through their smart devices. 

6. Libraries are also leveraging their data with BI

Libraries are another industry that is taking advantage of BI solutions. Through BI software's analytics applications they are able to monitor the use of their resources.

This helps them plan to offer more, or less, materials that their clientele is seeking or are not interested in. 

"Recently, libraries have seen a rise in the use of digital media, which has allowed them to collect a wealth of data regarding the needs and interests of their patrons. By understanding how people utilize their resources, libraries can better establish modern depositories of multimedia." - Saint Joseph's University

7. Amazon uses BI to sell you stuff you don't really need

applications of BI amazon
Source: SounderBruce/Wikimedia Commons

Another big player on the BI-user scene is Amazon. This colossus of online retail uses BI tools to produce to personalize product recommendations and market products.

But its not just about sales. Amazon also uses BI to help streamline their extensive logistics demands, especially meeting supply and demand.  

Whether it be optimizing shipping routes or allocating inventory in their global network of warehouses, BI tools (and data) help drive this process.  

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