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What is Business Intelligence?

If the expression “business intelligence” seems to  sound like a mouthful, fear not!

We’re going to break it down for you in a much simpler way. One that will – hopefully -, get you rocking the business boat with it, too!

Have you been wondering about any of the following:

  • How does business intelligence work?
  • What is business intelligence used for?
  •  “Is business intelligence really for me?
  • What will I get to do with business intelligence?

If your answers to most of these were a solid “yes”, then you’ve come to the right place! We’re looking forward into giving some light into the subject so that you can decide whether “business intelligence” is the thing for you!

Let’s start with the basics: what exactly is “business intelligence”? And of what use can it be to you, if you’re into coding?

In its early stages, “business intelligence” will require you to put some coding skills to use, either in SQL (commonly used for database information retrieving), Python or R (commonly used for processing). But hey, fear not little Padawan, here at Sololearn we’ve got you covered with courses on all of them to help you raise up to the challenge.

The concept of “Business Intelligence” comes down to giving business owners deep (and very much needed) insights into their own businesses! And how is this achieved? By gathering data, analyzing it, and providing insights, that can get them either an edge over their competition, or even an idea of where business is headed. 

Because business intelligence is all about context (and what kind of company would we be running if we didn’t give you some?). But before we go deeper into the subject: a brief history lesson!

The History behind the Business (Intelligence)

Do you think business intelligence is a new concept? Not quite. It’s actually been around for ages. 

The term was first coined in 1868, by an author named Richard Devens, who cited a banker who collected intelligence (i.e. information) to get an edge over other competitors.

But the concept evolved, starting thanks to IBM in the late 50s – when they first considered the potential of tech to gather business information -.

Evolution is an unstoppable force (and not limited to monkeys or people), and so by the 60s and 70s the first decision support systems (DSS) were created. And “what are DSSs?” you might ask? They are interactive information systems that help analyze large volumes of data (to help cope with the ever-expanding amounts of information that gets gathered).

Nowadays, “business intelligence” has gotten more refined and more accessible, due to becoming less complicated to interact with. But let’s get back to Business (Intelligence)

Like Waze or Google Maps, we’re more than happy to show you the way.

How does business intelligence work?

Business Intelligence makes use of plenty of well-known tidbits of technology that give companies a broader picture of their current status.

  • “Data mining”
  • “Process analysis”
  • “Benchmarking”
  • “Querying”
  • “Data visualization”
  • “Data preparation”.

These are big words, used to describe even bigger – and more complex – processes, but that ultimately translate into an elementary and straightforward thing: measuring and analyzing collected user and logistics data to paint a bigger (and more colorful) picture of the state of affairs within the business.

What is business intelligence used for?

It can be used in virtually every department, holding numerous processes and tools that help to improve the many workflow processes within the company, ranging from security, to marketing, hiring, inventory, supply chain and even employee performance!

Business intelligence hides in plain sight, as there are plenty of well-known companies that count on it every single day to improve both themselves, and the way they serve their users.

Coca-Cola makes use of its high number of followers on social media along with image recognition AI, to tell when photos of their products are being posted, which in turn provides them with profound insights about whom, why, and how they mention the brand!

You know how Netflix always seems to know exactly what you want to see? It should come as no surprise as to how this is achieved: by using the power of business intelligence! That, along with its 148 million subscriber database, give the company insights into what you intend to see, and when you would like to see it, providing highly efficient, targeted, content.

Uber has disrupted the way we order a cab nowadays, and this owes itself (in part) to business intelligence. It is used on multiple aspects of their business structure, but a very straightforward example of this has to do with how their “dynamic rates” work. These ever-changing values are not random: they are actually set based on data that has been collected on things such as driver availability, customer demand, traffic and journey times, and analyzed with business intelligence!

Although it’s applications are varied, the greater purpose of business intelligence is to make everything run as smoothly as possible by understanding how everything is running, by spotting inefficiencies and issues and correcting them before they become a real problem!

And with this, can come even bigger ROIs. Who doesn’t like that?

Is business intelligence really for me?

While you won’t – necessarily – get to mingle with the whatsits of Hollywood, or be part of the – aforementioned – sexy world of international espionage, you will be able to make a difference within the tight fabric of many companies, leaving your mark while helping them grow.

But how can you know if this is a fit for you?

  • Is presenting insights concisely your strong suit?
  • Do you have a knack for solving problems?
  • Enjoy critical thinking?
  • Okay, with working on your own, or as part of a bigger team to analyze and implement new software?

If most of your answers to these questions were “yes”, then you’re on the right path!

What will I get to do with business intelligence?

Well, that’s something only you can know!

However, we’re more than happy to give you a little bit of insight into what you can expect – just in case you decide this is something you’d be interested in pursuing -, doing exciting and dazzling activities such as:

  • Monitoring and optimizing data collection
  • Making sure that data is correctly gathered, stored, and analyzed
  • Reporting your data findings.
  • Actual mining for minerals.

Ok the last one was a joke, but you get the point!


There are other big concepts that fall under the “business intelligence” umbrella and that are very relevant to today’s culture, with things like automation & AI or data collection complementing and bringing new and even more complex levels of detail and relevance  to the data generated.

For instance, automation & AI can both be used to further streamline the process of data analysis, by giving out exponentially more complex estimates that provide even greater insights, far more than humans ever could!

With the endless amounts of data that get collected every single day, along with the help of our good friend, “business intelligence”, businesses can extract even more accurate conclusions than ever before, making the role of collected data bigger than ever before!


This doesn’t just apply to Spiderman. The same can be said of “Business Intelligence”.

It’s a great tool for measuring and benchmarking – as well as paving – the way to a company’s never seen level of success, but it must be used wisely and consciously because its ramifications are wide and deep.

Business Intelligence can serve as a way to optimize and to bring transparency to a company’s practice (especially in these data-driven times that we currently find ourselves in), but it alone won’t necessarily disclose the future!

It’s a great tool, for great insight, and a particularly fun and interesting fit for those who have both a knack (and an interest) for data skewing and analyzing.

Think you fit the profile? Maybe it’s time to give Business Intelligence a look!

And what better way to start than with some of our introductory courses on either Data Science, SQL, Python or R? 😉