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Business Intelligence Basics: Top 10 Buzzwords

Here’s a handy explanation of some of the key terms you might come across when reading about Business Intelligence. These Business Intelligence basics will allow you to develop a better understanding of the topic and some of the key principles involved.

We’ve taken these definitions from the BI dictionary at where you can find even more examples of Business Intelligence basics.

Ad Hoc Query

An ad hoc query is a data search designed for an out of the ordinary circumstance or question—not one of the pre-programmed queries that many organizations run on a regular basis.

Big Data

Big data is a massive collection of digital data (typically hosting millions or even billions of rows of data) that is unorganized or marginally organized, making it difficult to mine, structure, analyze or display in any meaningful way. Currently, much of the data that large companies produce and store would accurately be classified as Big Data. In the business intelligence industry, the term “Big Data” is also used to describe sophisticated technologies designed to process massive data sets.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Business intelligence (BI) is a term that refers to ideas, practices and technologies for turning raw data into information that businesses can use to make better organizational decisions. Businesses that employ BI effectively can transform information into growth by gaining a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, cutting costs and losses, streamlining internal processes and increasing revenue.

Corporate Performance Management (CPM)

This is a method of illustrating and improving performance and profit in a business. CPM is considered an additional benefit of Business Intelligence. While in BI the analysis of history and present takes centre stage, CPM also encompasses the future with planning, projection and sales promotions in mind. Synonymous terms: Business Performance Management (BPM) and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).

Cloud BI

Cloud business intelligence (cloud BI) refers to network-based tools that turn raw data into information that businesses can use to cut costs, streamline inefficiencies, increase revenue and generally make better organizational decisions.

Because it doesn’t have to be downloaded from a disc or hard drive, cloud based BI offers many advantages as a business intelligence solution. It is easy to access, relieves the user of many of the administrative tasks associated with data management, comes relatively cheap and is highly scalable.


A dashboard is a screen that consolidates critical performance metrics all in one place, making it easy for users to stay constantly updated on the information most important to their business.
Dashboards can be designed to suit a variety of needs, and will therefore take on a variety of forms, from business intelligence dashboards (BI dashboards) to executive dashboards/enterprise dashboards and key performance indicator dashboards (KPI dashboards).

Data Warehouse

A data warehouse is a digital storage centre in which information is compiled, searched, and managed. In most data warehouses, information can be inserted by different parties culling data from many sources. Data in a data warehouse is often modified with compression and hashing systems to expedite searches and transactional processes.


Extract, transform, and load (ETL) is an activity performed by software, in which data sets are moved from their original sources into new databases. ETL is crucial to building and maintaining a current database that can therefore produce relevant business intelligence.
Essentially, ETL tools read data sets, convert those data sets into forms that are compatible with the new database, and then write the data to the new database.

Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)

Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is business intelligence software that provides the user with answers to complex queries extracted from multidimensional databases, thus delivering various perspectives on data.

OLAP software achieves this type of complex analysis by searching multidimensional databases that can receive input from a number of relational databases and organize them into groupings that can be understood and compared in many ways.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a service business intelligence (SaaS BI) is business intelligence delivery from third-party providers over the Internet. Rather than paying for software licensing and hosting an entire business intelligence system onsite—replete with hardware, software, and administrative personnel—SaaS BI provides a bevvy of business intelligence tools online, letting users either pay a subscription fee or purchase individual services as they need them.

Because SaaS BI spares organizations the expense associated with traditional business intelligence hosting, it opens up the benefits of business intelligence to many organizations that otherwise could not afford the expense of building a BI infrastructure. And because SaaS BI is hosted in the cloud, it can be scaled to the needs of any company, large or small.



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