Pop quiz: are you using business intelligence tools to make decisions?
It’s no secret that companies today are pushing to become more “data-driven.”
But understanding the moving pieces of your business’ data is daunting.
Revenue. Lead sources. Marketing performance. The list goes on.
Food for thought: nearly two-thirds of businesses struggle to make sense of their company data, citing major gaps between sources.
This speaks to the importance of business intelligence software that not only aligns your company’s key metrics but also translates them into actionable insights.
In this guide, we’ll break down why BI tools should be a top priority and which tools can level up your business’ decision-making.
What is business intelligence, anyway?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s kick things off with a quick definition.
Business intelligence represents the data and systems implemented by companies to analyze information.
Business intelligence tools are responsible for gathering, organizing and presenting that data in a way that makes sense to employees. Some of the key data points analyzed by such tools include:
- Financial information (revenue, quarterly sales, best-selling products)
- Customer interactions (marketing engagement, lead sources, traffic)
- Productivity (time or money spent on a task, employee engagement)
When you’re juggling a massive tech stack and tons of customers, analyzing all of the above manually is a tall order. Uniting your company data via BI software gives you a complete, holistic view of your business minus the legwork of crunching numbers yourself.
What are the benefits of adopting business intelligence tools?
The concept of business intelligence isn’t just reserved for the enterprise: we’re seeing businesses both big and small invest in business intelligence tools.
Why, though? Consider these three key benefits of business intelligence software:
1. Eliminate data silos once and for all
This is the big one. No department or higher-up should be solely responsible for your company data.
That said, data silos are an unfortunate phenomenon that many companies deal with. According to the most recent Sprout Social Index, 50% of marketers say they maintain occasional communication and collaboration with other teams while 17% operate in complete silos.
From marketing and sales to IT and HR, business intelligence tools encourage a sense of unity and transparency. This puts a stop to informational bottlenecks that otherwise slow workers down or keeps them in the dark.
2. Visualize data for stakeholders and team members
Getting rid of data silos results in companies sharing their data around.
But doing so means minding how that data is presented. Making sense of complex metrics and KPIs is easier said than done, especially for cross-team collaboration.
Most modern business intelligence tools have features that make it a cinch to present and share reports. This includes a variety of data visualizations, chart types and built-in sharing options (think: email, Slack and so on).
3. Make informed decisions and accurate projections
Beyond assessing your company data, business intelligence tools are likewise capable of identifying trends and opportunities related to marketing and sales.
For example, which factors contributed to your highest-earning month? What are your top-performing marketing channels and best-selling products? Which campaigns are lagging behind?
The ability to understand these trends gives you a sense of confidence and encourages more informed decision-making. Additionally, some BI tools are powered by machine learning and can actually come up with projections and sales forecasts for you.
8 of the best business intelligence tools for you to try
Below is our list of eight top business intelligence tools to wrangle your company data and translate it into action.
From enterprise software to free tools, there’s something on this list that can help regardless of your company’s size, scope or goals.
Databox is an awesome, all-in-one tool for connecting your company’s data sources and visualizing your business’ data.
The platform boasts 70+ native integrations including your CRM major digital marketing tools, payment processors and more. Databox keeps you from bouncing between tools by consolidating your key metrics into a single dashboard.
Selecting data sources and metrics to watch is a cinch, too. The drag-and-drop functionality of Databox means you can customize your dashboards and reports based on your specific priorities.
Speaking of customization, the platform also boasts 200+ pre-built templates and visualization options. These charts, graphs and tables are a far cry from old-school spreadsheets and are perfect for presenting to your team.
Oh, and the fact that Databox has a forever-free plan is a huge point in their favor. If you’re totally new to business intelligence tools, this is a great place to start.
Domo’s suite of BI tools is tailor-made for enterprise companies with serious revenue and big customer bases.
The tool shines when it comes to looking at financial interactions and company-wide trends. Domo encourages you to put each of your metrics under the microscope while also hooking users up with 150+ chart types to choose from.
Predictive analytics via advanced AI and machine learning is ideal for large companies looking to project revenue and dig into margins. Additional features such as goal-setting and alerts mean that companies can intervene before problems have a chance to snowball.
The need for social business intelligence is crystal clear.
In fact, 51% of executives note that social media is the top indicator for business trends and opportunities.
And tools like Sprout Social can highlight those opportunities in no time flat. Features such as social listening and sentiment analysis highlight how well your company engages customers and which interactions are resulting in revenue.
Plus, our social media reporting capabilities make it easy to understand and share data among teams.
Features baked into Sprout Social also highlight how your social media efforts contribute to company-wide marketing campaigns. Given that social is such an invaluable source of leads, tracking your performance is a key piece of business intelligence at large.
The importance of social listening tools can’t be overstated.
Tools like Audiense dig deep into ad campaigns and audience-specific data for social media. Identifying and segmenting audiences automatically, the platform identifies demographics, customer traits and other information to inform your overall business strategy.
Remember: the “intelligence” in BI is only as smart as the data you’re able to gather. The more in-depth and granular that data is, the more targeted your campaigns can be.
A self-proclaimed no-code business analytics software, Grow.com is a powerful BI tool with a serious sense of style.
The platform connects with tools including Salesforce, Google Analytics or your ecommerce platform of choice (think: WooCommerce or Shopify) to pull data directly and generate customizable dashboards. Features such as roles and permissions make collaboration a breeze, as does the ability to share metrics directly in Slack.
You can build your dashboards from scratch or start from one of their own role-specific templates. To highlight the diversity of business intelligence tools and what Grow.com can do, some sample dashboards include:
- Company health
- Sales projection
- Ecommerce sales
- Clinical effectiveness
Figuring out which metrics to focus on is overwhelming by itself. Thanks to Grow.com’s templates and pre-build dashboards, newbies to analysis can get started with BI without analysis paralysis.
Holistics’ self-service platform is ideal for BI-savvy companies that want to tear down data silos. One of the tool’s main goals is to reduce the need for data requests, empowering users to access their data directly.
Although the platform might be a bit much if you don’t work with SQL, Holistics offers users easy-to-build data visualizations. Affordable pricing and quick setup are also two major points in the platform’s favor.
With Google Data Studio, companies can get their feet wet with business intelligence reporting for free.
The platform lets you pull data from internal sources such as Google Sheets and Analytics. Alternatively, you can upload your own CSV data or connect an SQL database. From there, you can create visualizations based on your Google’s own community submissions or build your own templates.
ActivTrak is unique among our business intelligence solutions because it focuses heavily on individual employee data.
That said, the performance and productivity of individual employees have massive implications for your company at large.
The platform is capable of spotting trends and bottlenecks alike, including inefficiencies, time-consuming tasks and attention shifts. This highlights how BI goes hand in hand with not only doing better business but building a more proactive, healthy company culture.
Another notable feature of ActivTrak is SaaS license management. For example, the platform identifies which apps are most important to your team and how they impact productivity. These insights can be eye-opening in terms of which tools are actually worth their investment and what’s bogging your employees down.
Which business intelligence tools are on your radar?
Listen: investing in BI can be a game-changer for any given business.
That’s because they identify trends and opportunities that would otherwise be impossible to spot yourself.
If you want a more comprehensive understanding of how your business actually works, business intelligence tools can do the trick. They should be a top priority for companies moving forward.
And if you haven’t already, make sure to test-drive a trial of Sprout Social to understand how your social media metrics can support your company’s growth and big-picture business goals.
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