So what is BI and how can I use it?

SO, what is BI?

Business Intelligence is all about making better decisions and improving your business by sharing the results of your analysis with others.  Bi is the process of finding, transferring, formatting and studying business data, and includes the processes you use to make your results available to others.

A BI solution should do more than give you better access to data. It should specifically support your decision-making efforts. A BI solution should help you assess and respond to business conditions, whether you require an all-encompassing view of the entire organization or a narrow perspective of a department, workgroup, or even a team of one.

The goal of a BI solution is to let you spend your time analyzing the data and finding answers to questions rather than tracking down, consolidating, reformatting and reconciling the data itself.

The development of a BI solution goes more smoothly when you have a specific business problem to solve and approach the design by first considering how people need to interact with information.

The Microsoft Solution

SQL Server 2008 is the foundation of Microsoft’s BI stack; as the data platform hosting the data. SQL Server 2008 includes three key BI components: Integration Services (SSIS), Analysis Services (SSAS), and Reporting Services (SSRS). The best way to start learning about the Microsoft BI stack is to build a simple solution using SSIS, SSAS and SSRS.

Once you have an initial design you begin by creating and populating the BI solution’s data structures using SSIS. Once the data is in place, you continue to the next step by building a cube. After your development is complete, you process the cube to load it with data. You then use SSRS to develop a report that queries the cube and displays the query results in a report.

Adding an SSAS database to your BI solution allows you to support more sophisticated, high-performing interactive queries. You use SSAS to copy your relational data into a multidimensional database structure called a cube.

Whether you’re storing your data in a SQL Server data mart or an SSAS cube, you can add SSRS to your solution architecture to make the data available to users. SSRS is a reporting platform that includes tools to develop reports, to secure and manage published reports using a centralized administrative infrastructure and to support user access to reports.  Sharepoint Server and Office 2010 can be used to view and analyze the data in a user friendly, familiar environment.

In summary the new Microsoft Technologies stack-up like so:

Data Storage and Management – SQL Server 2008

Information Delivery – Sharepoint Server

Query, Reporting and Analysis – SQL Server 2008 and Microsoft Office 2010

Download trial software from Microsoft today

Once you start using BI, you’ll probably never look at data in quite the same way again.

CJ Systems is an I.T. Consultancy and Managed Service Provider based in Taunton, Somerset.  For more information visit our website, contact us on 01823 478515 or email

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