What is BI?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a specialised form of Management Information (MI). In a BI system, business data from a variety of sources are collated (using a 'data warehouse') into a single, rich source of strategic management information about an organisation's activities.

This single data source is then used to present reports to managers and strategists in an intuitive, interactive and comprehensive format, allowing business process trends to be identified, investigated and predicted. The video 'What is BI?' has more information.

Data Synthesis

A crucial feature of the BI concept is that it joins together data from two or more sources to give a more comprehensive view of the business than is available from separate MI reports from the individual source systems


Many operational IT applications hold only current data or have limited historical reporting capabilities. BI defines processes and systems which create comprehensive data histories, allowing not just time-series reporting, but time series analysis and drill-down

Single source of truth

MI is often compiled from business systems into reporting tools for processing/ analysis. This means strategic decision-making can be hampered by doubts about data quality, differing assumptions or rival visualisations.  BI aims to be a ‘single point of truth’, flexible enough to meet business needs, yet 'transparent' enough to free managers from discussing data so they can discuss the business processes the data describe.

Efficiency & timeliness

BI provides processes and systems that automate complex data production processes which were previously done ‘manually’ by data experts in each business area. This automation can provide efficiency savings and enhanced timeliness, reliability and resilience of intelligence.

The page ‘How does BI work?' describes the process that turns source-system data into 'business intelligence'