BI Software

What is Business Intelligence (BI) Software?

Business Intelligence software is a tool that transforms unstructured data into structured knowledge and insight. Primarily, BI software is used to collect, manage, and analyze the data generated by multiple systems within a business. With this tool, companies can centralize their data collection and make the most of the information they receive.

BI software is a broad term that is used all over the landscape of modern business. With so many uses from retail, to manufacturing, it can be hard to pin down any one definition. However, all BI applications have 2 things in common.

  1. BI software aims to efficiently collect and centralize data generated by a business.
  2. BI software takes this data and transforms it into actionable knowledge that companies can use to direct and steer toward their goals.

All BI software achieves these two actions but between the software provider, the particular industry, and the exact needs of the company, there can be a lot of differences. For this definition, we will look at BI software and its application for a manufacturing setting

Key Takeaways

  • BI software is used to gather, store, transform, display, and analyze a company’s data.

  • The data stored can pertain to any part of the business, such as finance, marketing, human resources, and manufacturing production.

  • Business Intelligence software is useful for manufacturers looking for automated software that visually transforms data into spreadsheets and other intelligent analytics tools.

  • To autonomously collect and analyze data, companies can connect VKS digital work instructions to their BI software via our intelligent API.

An Explanation of BI Software

From a user perspective, BI software functions similarly to a computer’s operating system such as Windows, macOS, or Linux. Without an operating system, your computer’s user interface would be limited to a sequence of 1s and 0s. These numbers would be hard to understand, let alone extrapolate any workable knowledge from them.


Similarly, BI software takes the immense amounts of data generated by the shop floor and presents it visually so that almost anyone can understand it. Through spreadsheets, graphs, filtered tables, and charts, BI software takes the immense amount of data you generate and turns it into workable knowledge.

For example, imagine your company produces a very popular brand of spatulas. Your employees use work instruction software to monitor and maintain the production line while your ERP tracks inventory usage, machine downtime, finance metrics, and workforce hours.

You’ve noticed that workforce hours are higher this year than last but sales have remained steady. You need to find the root cause of this increase quickly. Luckily, you have two systems that collect the data but you’ll need to cross-reference them.

Using BI software, you take the unstructured data and create a structured timeline and spreadsheet. With this new visualized information, you find the root cause of the issue and quickly adjust certain elements of production to safeguard from higher than normal workforce hours.

Companies use BI software in situations like these and many others to track performance across their departments and see trends develop over time. However, BI software needs intelligent programs to feed data. And the smarter the software, the stronger your business intelligence actions become.

Quality In, Quality Out

Have you heard the expression: “Garbage in, garbage out”?

When it comes to collecting data, nothing is more true. If companies receive inaccurate data from their systems, then they have no foundation to make smart and informed decisions. Likewise, BI software will misrepresent the facts if it does not receive accurate data from a reliable source.

But if companies collect accurate data, they can take this information and turn it into effective actions. Systems like digital work instructions gather data from every action that is taken by your employees on the shop floor. This worker-centric MES collects performance data, completion times, quality control/assurance information, and data from any action performed by an employee. This level of data collection makes it one of the most effective data generation tools in the industry.

BI integration

Once companies have a reliable source of data, they can funnel all the information to their BI software.

To understand how data is gathered and then transformed by BI software, there are 3 linear steps.

  1. Collection: Companies collect data from their various systems such as maintenance software, ERPs, or digital work instruction solutions.
  2. Organization & Analysis: The data now needs to be understood. BI software analyzes the data and organizes it into categories that make it easier to understand and decipher.
  3. Transformation & Reporting: This is where BI software takes the analyzed and organized data and transforms it into readable reports like charts and spreadsheets.

4 Types of BI Tools

Since BI software is an expansive application with various purposes and directives, the software can often come in many different shapes and sizes with a wide variety of tools for manufacturers to use. Let’s explore the common yet powerful tools of BI software.

BI dashboard

  1. Spreadsheets: Due to the relatively inexpensive availability of software like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, spreadsheet programs are the most common BI tool. Companies can manually or automatically filter data into their spreadsheets to see various KPIs together.
  2. Reports: Similar to how spreadsheets organize and filter data, this BI tool is used specifically to generate reports automatically as the information is collected in real-time.
  3. Visuals: To help users quickly understand the implications of the generated data, visualization tools take the data that has been organized and create easy-to-read charts and diagrams. A good example of a visual chart useful to manufacturers is the Pareto Chart.
  4. Mining: Here’s where we get into the advanced capabilities of BI software. BI mining tools use AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning, and statistical analysis to find trends and patterns that could be overlooked if simply looking at the data at disjointed times.

What’s great for manufacturers is that you don’t have to settle on 4 different systems to experience the benefits of these tools. Modern BI software now supports these various uses and is built specifically for companies to gain the best knowledge and insight from their data.

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