BI is an analytics tool that helps users access and analyze data in a more meaningful way. It combines tools, infrastructure and best practices to enable companies to transform raw data into useful insights that support informed decision-making, optimizing processes, and identifying growth opportunities. BI is widely used across industries, including retail, healthcare, finance, insurance, and manufacturing. It’s also used by government agencies to track fraud, and by banks to assess credit risk.

One of the key goals of business intelligence is to provide straightforward snapshots of current conditions. This is accomplished by providing easy-to-understand visual representations of the data, such as charts and graphs. BI also includes online analytical processing (OLAP) tools, which let users examine datasets from multiple perspectives and drill down into details.

While BI has been in use for 30 years, the modern version of the technology is much more user-friendly than its predecessors. The goal is to make it easier for non-technical business managers to find answers to their questions, and to create new reports based on the data.

For example, a beverage company with bottlers in several regions could use BI capabilities to quickly discover where shipment delays are occurring and the causes of them. This information would help them to improve scheduling and ordering, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce costs. Streaming services like Netflix, for instance, use BI to learn customer preferences and recommend movies to them. Likewise, theaters and live performances use BI to optimize ticket pricing and schedules.