What are the Different Types of Business Intelligence Tools?


Data, data, data … that’s all we’re hearing about nowadays. Big Data, data mining, data scientists and the like appear at the top of Google searches and blog headlines more than ever before, and with good reason. The business leaders of today, in every industry, have discovered how to use their data to its fullest potential. So, what are business intelligence tools and what business intelligence systems are available now anyway? Understanding different types of business intelligence tools is now more attainable than ever.

The proper utilization of data shouldn’t be, nor is it, exclusive to the top players. Business intelligence (BI) tools have given companies of all sizes access to powerful data analysis capabilities. Receiving insights and finding trends is essential for businesses to scale and adapt as the years go on, which is exactly what business intelligence software does. The best thing about these software solutions, however, is that their potential uses are practically unlimited.

There are six million ways to BI… at least, that’s our (very) rough estimate. And the different types of BI reports are almost as numerous as the uses for BI. What you can do with your data and a good BI system is limited by one simple barrier: your creativity. You can aggregate user data to provide product recommendations, similar to Amazon. Or, you can identify your company’s peak revenue times. You can also find the ROI of your CRM. Or track employee retention. Point is: with various types of BI tools, you should never feel limited by what you can do.

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A Quick Note on Data Governance

A successful business intelligence strategy begins even before implementation. It entails a good data governance policy. Data cleansing is essential before feeding it into your BI tool, because good data analytics is useless when performed on bad data. But a governance policy goes beyond mere data cleansing.

It also involves securing the data. What levels of encryption do you use for data at rest? What are your access policies and procedures? What are the consequences for failing to adhere to policy? All of these things go into a solid data governance program, and upon that you can build a strong governance policy for your business intelligence systems.

Survey Results – What the BI Software Buyer is Searching For

Based on survey responses from representatives of over 600 businesses from a variety of industries, we’ve made a list of the top features business intelligence software buyers are looking for in recent months. Their answers provided us with data on the features most desired by those in the market for a business intelligence system. Here’s what we found:

The most important types of business intelligence tool features and functionality are:

  • Dashboards
  • Visualizations
  • Reporting
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Data Mining
  • ETL
  • OLAP
  • Drill-Down

Advanced Analytics Features Are Viewed as Amenities, Not Necessities

BI software buyers expect advanced analytics features from their BI tools. Of those surveyed, 42 percent requested predictive analytics, 32 percent wanted data mining and 20 percent expressed interest in extract, transform and load (ETL) capabilities.

Of the respondents who didn’t specifically request the above features, a significant portion listed them as “nice to have in the future.” For instance, while 42 percent required predictive analytics, another 16 percent thought that feature would be useful to implement in the future. There was a similar trend with data mining (14 percent thought it would be something they’d be interested in) and ETL (6 percent).

The comparatively low numbers of users who requested these features may have a root in lack of awareness and understanding of the benefits they can offer businesses. There could also be an element of overpacking BI with features: many of these functions — especially data mining and ETL — are more focused on Big Data and may not be useful to SMBs.

Basic Features Are The Most Desired

Of our survey respondents, 90 percent said dashboarding was a BI key feature. Dashboards satisfy the need to process and organize data into an easily digestible format, so it’s easy to see why this is a requirement of an overwhelming majority of buyers.

Visualizations stood out as another important feature for BI system buyers. Visualizations organize and present data in a format that can be understood and utilized by people of all levels of BI skill sets. The feature was mentioned in 81 percent of responses.


Users surveyed were consistently open to either cloud-based or on-premise forms of deployment — 69 percent said they didn’t have a preference. Of those who were set on a deployment method, 23 percent preferred cloud and eight preferred on-premise.

Other Needs

Some other features requested by survey respondents include ease of use (28 percent), integration (23 percent), data warehousing (five percent) and mobile access (four percent).

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Final Thoughts on the Survey

When it comes to business intelligence, it’s all about the features. Overall, a majority of respondents want basic functions (reporting, dashboards, etc.) from their business intelligence software. But many buyers also showed interest in more advanced analytics capabilities like predictive analysis, data mining, ETL, OLAP and drill-down functions.

BI consumers seem to think their needs are generally basic, but there also seems to be a lack of awareness of more advanced features and the benefits they could offer them. This is apparent in the trend towards prioritizing familiarity. When choosing from the different types of business intelligence software, buyers tend to gravitate to features they know, hoping to streamline the decision-making process without adding too many layers of complexity. This signifies a need among buyers for more in-depth exploration of feature options.

101 Examples of Business Intelligence Tools in Action

We know we said there are about six million ways to use BI, but we didn’t want to list ALL of them. Just like there are different types of business intelligence systems, there are plenty of different ways to apply them. You’d probably get tired before finishing the full list. So we shortened it down to a much more manageable 101 uses, which you can peruse to find some of the best uses of BI software:

  1. Schedule regular automated reports
  2. Automatically share reports with clients
  3. Visualize inventory and sales in real time
  4. Pull data from multiple databases
  5. Analyze eCommerce sales in real time
  6. Integrate with cloud computing services like AWS
  7. Pull and analyze data from a CRM
  8. Data mining for deep layers of analytics
  9. Create embedded dashboards in a separate internal system
  10. Provide historical analysis on payroll, benefits and other employee HR data
  11. Embed and/or generate professional reports for clients
  12. Create predictive analytics dashboards and data visualizations
  13. Transform various types of data into a standardized format
  14. Predict trends using data forecasting to help with loss prevention efforts
  15. Assess distribution statuses on-the-go with a mobile device
  16. Visualize supply chain data over time
  17. Analyze the results of your marketing efforts both over time and in real time
  18. Optimize employee scheduling based on your highest and lowest foot traffic times
  19. Analyze commonalities in routes for various truck types, bridge weight ratings, and more
  20. Provide clients with self-service data visualization capabilities
  21. Pull and analyze data from a LMS
  22. Create custom types of business intelligence reports via drag and drop functionality
  23. Create ad hoc eCommerce sales reports
  24. View data trends in real time
  25. Provide every location with access to the same data, reports and reporting tools
  26. Create dashboards that display real-time inventory data
  27. Pull together different types of data including financial, practice management, HR and more
  28. Use for data warehousing client data
  29. Predict future retail sales with demand forecasting
  30. Aggregate and analyze customer survey results
  31. Provide clients access to custom dashboards of their data
  32. Use your BI tool for data warehousing employee data
  33. Pull data from SQL servers
  34. Find distribution inefficiencies
  35. Report on a diverse set of KPIs
  36. Set revenue goals using predictive analytics
  37. Find the most efficient transportation management systems for your supply chain
  38. Pull and analyze data from a CMMS
  39. Integrate with multiple data warehouses
  40. Track the ROI of your SCM system
  41. Compare the effectiveness of new distribution strategies to old strategies
  42. Create a 360-degree view of financial data trends
  43. Use drill down capabilities to find procurement inefficiencies
  44. Set marketing goals using predictive analytics
  45. Provide remote access to your field sales teams so they can use real-time data analytics in the field
  46. Provide multiple users access to ensure data consistency company-wide
  47. Evaluate the effectiveness of cybersecurity procedures
  48. Track employee skill development
  49. Pull and analyze data from a marketing automation software
  50. Find warehouse operation inefficiencies
  51. Pull and analyze data from an EMR/EHR system
  52. Set sales goals using predictive analytics
  53. Compare compliance processes of different locations
  54. Analyze customer demographic data
  55. Evaluate membership growth over time
  56. Customize and integrate your BI tool into an open-source system
  57. Automatically process, analyze and visualize large amounts of data in real time
  58. Create multiple presentation-worthy reporting templates
  59. Track the different stages of production and distribution over time
  60. Pull and analyze data from HR software
  61. Find supply chain inefficiencies
  62. Create custom dashboards for each department based on their individual needs
  63. Track the ROI of your HR software
  64. Process sales pipeline data, social data, and user interface data
  65. Allow clients to create their own custom reports with their related data
  66. Centralize company-wide data analysis
  67. Pull and analyze data from an inventory management system
  68. Compare results of A/B tests
  69. Track employee retention
  70. Segment customers and prospects
  71. Discover the trends behind the peaks and valleys in revenue
  72. Discover the best times for employee recruitment
  73. Report on the allocation of distribution resources
  74. Pull and analyze data from a WMS
  75. Report the results of a risk analysis
  76. Track market changes
  77. Create multiple ad hoc reporting templates
  78. Pull and analyze data from SCM software
  79. Track the ROI of your CRM
  80. Discover customer buying trends which can be used for customized product recommendations
  81. Track student performance over time
  82. Optimize appointment scheduling based on the most and least popular appointment times
  83. Discover cases of potential fraud with trend analysis
  84. Find the best location to open a new store or office based on market data
  85. Evaluate student geographic data
  86. Automatically organize all your data in one location, rather than multiple spreadsheets
  87. Set next year’s budget using predictive analytics
  88. Reduce overhead warehousing costs by identifying inefficient processes
  89. Develop reports on cybersecurity
  90. Track and compare the distribution time of various locations
  91. Discover the peak times for membership and other sign ups
  92. Monitor web traffic specific to different marketing campaigns
  93. Evaluate eCommerce cart abandonment rates
  94. Compare your competitors’ growth over a given time with your own
  95. Assess how often departmental and organizational goals are met
  96. Analyze patients’ medical data to find patterns and correlations in their symptoms
  97. Discover trends in inventory usage and stock
  98. Predict upticks in inventory usage
  99. Monitor compliance issues and track instances of compliance failures
  100. Identify which departments are viable for cost cutting and which are untouchable
  101. Find correlations between revenue and outside influencers such as weather, power outages, etc.

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The Top Business Intelligence Tools Buyers Plan on Using

You didn’t think we’d give you all this information and leave you without some recommendations, did you? If you’re in need of the tools of business intelligence, check out some of our top recommended vendors, taken from our BI software leaderboard:


One of the most popular types of BI tools, Tableau is a commonly sought-after BI platform. It’s simple enough that non-technical users can easily create customized dashboards and other reports to find valuable insights. Tableau is so popular that many people consider it the de facto BI tool and search to understand the difference between Tableau and the competition.


Among the best tools used in business intelligence is Qlik, with it’s guided tool, QlikView, and self-service business intelligence tool, Qlik Sense. This powerful program offers fully interactive data operation, which allows users to explore data at all times during input, processing and output.

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QlikView also offers a system memory function that displays every action that took place during analysis. QlikView is an extremely powerful BI tool with solid performance all around. It is available on mobile platforms, which provide the same interactive analytical tools, intuitive associative search and excellent visualization available to desktop users.

Qlik provides robust BI capabilities

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI earned a top score on our leaderboard in several areas, including interactive visualizations, predictive analytics, mobile access, export of analytics reports, big data integration and storyboarding, ensuring this solution is a powerful data visualizer. This solution offers one of the more affordable options, with a free (but limited) version in addition to their basic package.

Microsoft Power BI’s customizable dashboard

Dundas BI

With the Dundas BI solution, users can get data ported to any device and connect relational database, web services, Excel and other formats. Features for new versions include data generators, new data transformation tools, scaling modes and quick filters. Dundas bills its product as offering fast, self-service BI and a choice of on-the-fly or single-click in-memory analysis, as well as a leading data visualization tool. Part of the appeal of this tool is its innovation in displaying aggregate data.

Dundas BI’s unique data visualization dashboard


The Sisense BI platform provides one of the most popular, and one of our top-rated, all-in-one BI solutions. This solution offers a user-friendly interface, powerful data visualization tools and interactive dashboards designed for quick and easy use. Sisense also includes in-memory database tools and SQL server integration, so that no matter where your data is, you can analyze it. Or rather, Sisense can analyze it.

Sisense helps users understand data through vibrant visualizations

Information Builders WebFOCUS BI

By fueling a proactive business culture, WebFOCUS BI from Information Builders allows you to consistently make smarter choices. This product is a unique and different BI because it allows not only your employees, but also your customers, access to its platform. Your customers can have access to easy-to-use apps for better organization and more informed business decisions. For added flexibility, this platform can be deployed both on-premise and on the cloud.

WebFOCUS offers visually interactive BI tools

Oracle BI

Oracle BI is another top solution. While Oracle shares commonalities with QlikView, it also boasts especially strong geospatial visualization capabilities, including advanced mapping controls and fantastic dashboard integration. In addition, it performs exceptionally well when exporting analytics reports.

With Oracle BI, users can easily and intuitively interact with each other; view reports online; and publish, send and schedule reports to a variety of outputs such as SMS. While Oracle has limited benchmarking capability, its Scorecard and Strategy Management features allow users to establish goals and measure their success over a period of time, while also communicating progress and information to the entire organization.

Oracle’s BI interface

SAP BusinessObjects

SAP BusinessObjects received a perfect score in Hadoop, exporting analytics reports, mobile access and storyboarding, with strong performance in visual querying, geospatial integration and interactive visualizations. However, its benchmarking capabilities are very limited, as is its ability to monitor regulatory compliance. That said, it’s still a powerful analytics tool for finding game-changing insights.

SAP BusinessObject’s dashboard

MicroStrategy Analytics

For users who want a customized interface, the MicroStrategy Analytics platform may be the right choice. Since the company is known for its excellent personalized customer service, this is a good choice for companies and individuals new to BI software. The platform provides helpful insights through customized dashboards and powerful analytics tools.

Microstrategy BI offers interactive visual BI tools

SAS Business Intelligence

To get simple answers from complex data analysis, SAS Business Intelligence is a good platform choice. With fast processing and guided exploration, you can see a clear picture of the information you need instantly. Learn to build better models with a simple feature based on tested techniques, and put the models into service faster without any headaches.

SAS’s unique BI dashboard

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Business intelligence doesn’t have to be scary — there are a variety of resources to educate and empower buyers. There are plenty of types of different BI tools out there to explore and experiment with. The more educated the user base becomes, the more comprehensive and powerful the options will become. BI is a versatile and powerful resource, and can be useful to almost every industry.

Do you feel like you have a better grasp on business intelligence tools examples? Are there different BI tools you’d have put on this best-of list? Did we leave anything important out? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Bergen AdairWhat are the Different Types of Business Intelligence Tools?


Join the conversation
  • Aanchal Iyer - December 10, 2018 reply

    Great read, especially the examples of Business Intelligence Tools in Action. There is no better solution than BI, to obtain the most crucial data insights over time. Business Intelligence is a must-have asset now for organizations.

  • Kartik Rawal - May 24, 2019 reply

    Great information! Through this writing, I can see your study and research. your work is really appreciable

  • Karunakar - July 2, 2019 reply

    Good work. especially about the BI features.

    Bergen Adair - July 11, 2019 reply

    Thanks for reading Karunakar! We’re glad you found the information helpful.

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