Understanding a Business Intelligence Platform and Its Requirements

This article defines what a business intelligence platform is, provide examples of usage, discusses the requirements for selecting one, contrasts the shortcomings of older BI solutions, and offers free and commercial options for consideration.

What Is a Business Intelligence Platform?

A business intelligence platform is a software solution upon which BI developers and even end-users can build re-usable applications for monitoring performance, analyzing trends or problems, and drilling into detail to answer specific questions. The kinds of applications that can be built can include dashboards, analyses, data visualizations, production reports, and visual interactive reports.

An essential component of a BI platform is data access and data integration across all types of data sources, sometimes also called data mashup. Data transformation and KPI calculation on the fly must be enabled. Real-time access to data needs to be possible as well as caching when data transfer and resource costs dictate it.

In contrast, a BI tool might only be limited to generating SQL statements but lacks the full information display capability. Similarly a reporting system is not a platform if it only generates static PDF reports.

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20 Examples of Applications Running on a BI Platform

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View live interactive examples in InetSoft's dashboard and visualization gallery.

Shortcomings and Misconceptions of the Old BI Platform Approaches

When business intelligence software was in its infancy, most approaches were based on simple arithmetic calculations (summation, division, ranking, etc.) focused on the analysis of historical (last year, last quarter, last month) data. For those purposes, data warehouses were great at aggregating data in batches from different operational systems based on predetermined data models at certain intervals, but they suffered from latency; changes required retuning queries or time-consuming re-architecting of data models; most data warehouses weren't scalable enough to handle transaction-level data granularity.

Another type of software that was used in the broader context of business analytics included rules engines. Rules engines were, in most cases, more flexible than data warehouses in providing support for transaction monitoring, but they required prebuilt rules. Case management systems were strong at managing workflows, but usually just took alerts from individual operational systems; their siloed data capture presented a deficiency in accuracy and insight.

Realizing those shortcoming's, nowadays a complete BI architecture must take into account the different potential user constituents and their varying needs. For example, executives may require exception-based dashboards, while analysts require full-featured OLAP and query building tools; line-of-business staff need operational reports, while external stakeholders, such as suppliers, customers, and partners, may require other related BI functionality. Therefore, there is a need to combine traditional data warehousing tools with operational BI components.

Organizations should consider embedded analytics within all business processes supported by operational applications. In other words, whenever a decision needs to be made in a business process, an opportunity exists to inject intelligence into that process. This can be done through better and faster data capture, more advanced analytics, and work flow-based information delivery to decision makers or other applications. This type of intelligent process automation automates repeatable, operational decisions in response to events where analytics drive the business process workflow.

Indeed, since many types of decisions are recurring or repeatable, decision-making processes exist that are amenable to automation. For example, organizations should consider automating processes that detect suspicious transactions, set prices, recommend products or services, extend credit, or monitor product quality.

why select InetSoft
“Flexible product with great training and support. The product has been very useful for quickly creating dashboards and data views. Support and training has always been available to us and quick to respond.
- George R, Information Technology Specialist at Sonepar USA

Software Requirements for Today's Business Intelligence Platforms

The requirements of intelligent process automation above and beyond traditional BI include:

  • Support for repeatable, operational decisions rather than for infrequent strategic decisions made at the highest levels of an organizations
  • Employment of advanced analytics for decision optimization and analytics-driven workflow
  • Addition of collaborative support on top of access to information by individuals
  • Business activity monitoring and event-driven automation

Another benefit of business intelligence software is that it enables greater consistency in the way decisions are made. This is important not only for competitive reasons but also, increasingly, for compliance reasons – companies must demonstrate that decisions were not arbitrary, but followed established procedures.

Learn about the top 10 features of embedded business intelligence.

Is CRM Part of Business Intelligence?

Yes, to the extent that the CRM system provides built-in reporting and dashboards. It certainly is an infromation management system, and users can retrieve information from it for operational business intelligence purposes. It wouldn't, however, be considered a platform as it doesn't include application development tools.

What Is the Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms?

The magic quadrant chart was developed by an analyst firm called Gartner many decades ago to illustrate the relative quality and performance of technology vendors. It is considered antiquated and out of date now because of its limitation of including only very large firms, many of which are considered dinosaurs in the industry. Challenger BI vendors such as InetSoft aren't inlcluded, for instance.

Read the top 10 reasons for selecting InetSoft as your BI partner.

Considering InetSoft's Business Intelligence Platform

InetSoft Technology Corp., founded in 1996 and headquartered in Piscataway, NJ, is a software development and service company providing Java-based enterprise reporting and BI solutions. InetSoft software, based on process-aligned intelligence designs that center on the company's patent-pending Data Block technology, provides a secure, scalable, and collaborative operational BI platform for real-time information flow.

The software's full-featured presentation front end enables an intelligence flow of information that aligns with an organization's ongoing business process. Data Blocks assembled for one process step can serve as the building block for the next step's intelligence needs by adding to the previous level of intelligence. InetSoft's reporting, analytics, and monitoring tools can aggregate, compare, and visualize shared Data Blocks for a wide spectrum of business users.

InetSoft's process-aligned software design provides business line managers with real-time data to make decisions that impact the bottom line. Leveraging this intelligence in a collaborative environment across the enterprise provides business managers with the ability to make operational decisions that positively impact related business processes.

Read how InetSoft saves money and resources with deployment flexibility.

Are There Options for Free Business Intelligence Tools?

Yes, InetSoft offers two options via the The Start Free button on the top navigation bar. Both gives you for a good way to handle ad hoc business intelligent projects. Student, especially find them useful. So do small business owners, and even managers in large companies who can't get IT support to set up a BI dashboard for them.

With the Individual Account, register with any email address, including free email services such as Google and Yahoo. There is no credit card required. Use the 100% web app with no desktop install. Collaborate online in real time. Use data sources such as uploaded Excel or CSV files or connect to live Google sheets. Publicly share dashboards, if you wish, via URL link. All advanced data visualization types and interactive controls are available.

With the Business Account, register with any organizational (business, university, or organization) email address. There is no credit card required. Use the 100% web app with no desktop install. Collaborate online in real time. Use data sources such as uploaded Excel or CSV files or connect to live Google sheets, plus more Google apps, Facebook, databases and many other online data sources. Publicly share dashboards, if you wish, via URL link. Privately share dashboards and analyses within your organization (same email domain). All advanced data visualization types and interactive controls are available.