Business Intelligence & Analytics: What is it?

Business intelligence and analytics is a key facet of modern-day business building.

“BI gives you the ability to dig deeper in to all the operations of your business to track KPIs and other metrics, which can then help you steer your business,” says Houston Slatton, BluWave’s head of technology.

Leaders at private equity firms, portfolio companies and private and public companies use data to answer questions about their business. This could give them a better understanding of their customer base or product, for example.

What is Business Intelligence and Analytics?

“It’s using very large amounts of, and sometimes real-time data to paint a whole picture of your customers, your business and your products or services,” the founding partner at one of our expert service providers says. “The difference between business intelligence and analytics and maybe traditional financial analysis is the scale at which it happens.”

In the past, business leaders would get information from an old database and manual analyze it in a spreadsheet program. That very spreadsheet fundamentally limits the analysis, according to the data firm’s founding partner, Mike Datus.

“Once you enter the realm of business intelligence or analytics, or data science is sometimes used synonymously, you’re talking about a bigger, more comprehensive, more real-time picture,” Datus says.

READ MORE: Business Intelligence Infrastructure: What is it?

Different Aspects of BI&A Process

One key way to maximize portfolio company performance is with private equity analytics. The right data helps a firm make better investment decisions while maximizing portfolio company performance.

The right information also helps with risk management, and eventually, increasing a portfolio company’s exit value.

Of course, non-PE firms can reap the same benefits to build their business. Slatton says this process starts with putting your data in a data warehouse and formatting it in a way that’s “analytics ready.”

READ MORE: Data Consolidation: Benefits, Challenges, Process

“The next chunk is building or doing analysis on top of that data,” he adds. “Probably a lot of defining KPIs or metrics. All businesses are generally going to agree on revenue, but most of the operational metrics, there’s probably a little wiggle room around. But you can’t build a visualization with wiggle room.”

Precision, then, is key to actionable analytics. Once you have reliable, accurate data in place, it’s time to put it to work.

“You’re going to build some visualizations on top of that analysis so you can build some metrics over time and build some historical results and predict future results as well,” Slatton says.

How PE Firms, Businesses Use BI&A

By monitoring key performance indicators and market trends, organizations can identify weaknesses. The right data can help develop strategies to address these issues and strengthen a firm’s portco or a company’s operations.

“Most companies don’t have great insight into the actual operations of their business at the granular level that you can have now,” Slatton says. “It’s an investment to put in a full data stack and to build the visualization capabilities. But you can really unearth a lot of highly impactful insights about your business once you have access to the granular data sets.”

READ MORE: Data Warehouse Types: How To Choose the Right One

One of the key considerations in BI & analytics is the selection of data sources. As Slatton mentioned earlier, accuracy is imperative, along with up-to-date information that’s aligned with the firm’s overall strategy.

“One of the most important parts of BI is figuring out what the actual KPIs are that are going to be the real levers of the business and making sure to track those,” Slatton says.

Once the firm knows what it wants to monitor, it must decide how to securely collect and store that information.

Integrating new private equity analytics programs and tools must be done with existing systems in mind. These might include portfolio management software, investor reporting platforms, website analytics, payroll management and more.

Lastly, and most practically, the data must be accessible for the relevant parties. That means reports that are easy to analyze and share. That way, everyone from partners to C-suite executives to the most junior employee in the organization understands what’s driving the decisions that affect them.

READ MORE: Business Intelligence Automation: What is it?

Whether you’re the CTO at an independent company, an interim CFO at a portco, or any other business building role, we have expertly vetted analytics and insights resources on standby.

The BluWave-grade network of service providers have helped hundreds of companies like yours choose, implement and distribute data platforms that have a positive impact on their organization’s value.

“You want a group that can define the right, limited set of KPIs,” Slatton says. “The C-suite or leadership team should bring that to the table, but you want a group you’re going to be able to work with to define and refine the KPIs that you use to drive the business.”

Contact us to set up an initial scoping call, and we’ll connect you with two or three best-fit resources for your exact situation within a single business day.

*Privacy is important to us. While the source and company name have been changed, these are real quotations from a real service provider in the BluWave Business Builders’ Network.

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Business Intelligence Automation: What is it?

Business intelligence continues to be among the most high-demand services in the Business Builders’ Network.

One aspect of BI&A that’s popular is automation.

The founding partner of one of our BluWave service providers says BI automation is essential to modernizing data analysis.

“A lot of times the process involves people pulling data into spreadsheets manually, analyzing, cleaning, doing stuff with the data and then giving it to their bosses or whoever downstream needs them,” says the partner, Mike Datus*. “That’s usually a very error-prone process because it’s done by humans.”

BI automation can change all that, and make life much easier for both the analysts as well as those downstream superiors.

Let’s talk in more detail about BI automation tools, their benefits as well as potential drawbacks.

READ MORE: What is Business Intelligence & Analytics?

business analytics

What is Business Intelligence Automation?

Business intelligence automation is the process of consolidating and streamlining your company’s data into a single warehouse that can be accessed in real-time.

Automation provides instantaneous insights that forgo manual input and data manipulation to give team members actionable, consistent information to drive their day-to-day decisions.

Put another way, it helps you automate business processes.

Companies that are older, or perhaps resource-challenged, can benefit greatly from automating their data collection and analysis.

Another data firm’s founding partner, who we’ll call Steve Holms*, puts it this way:

“Holding larger data sets and integrating more data sources to do analysis across several different places makes it a lot easier to analyze.”

Business Process Automation Benefits

It’s no surprise that business intelligence tools are in such high demand. We have seen countless PE firms and other companies streamline processes and improve real-time decision-making because of them.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should consider implementing or upgrading your automation efforts.

Save Time

Not only will you complete key tasks sooner, but you’ll be able to make important decisions faster, too.

“You’re talking about orders of seconds instead of hours or days, right? And then that’s huge,” Datus says. “With one of our clients, we built a platform, so instead of waiting a week, the CFO now had a live dashboard in board meetings. So when he was asked a question, he didn’t have to say, ‘I’ll get back to you next week.’ He literally just popped up his dashboard, did a quick filter, and had the answer.”

Our service providers often see situations where top executives need different versions of the same report depending on who they’re working with or what meeting they’re in at a given moment.

This often meant one-off iterations of the same data sets that take might not be available the same day, or even week.

“If the analyst has to go back, they have to go back and pull the data again, do the analysis, run it through, right? That’s another runtime,” says Holms, who noted that those iterations add up.

Another time-saving scenario is if an analyst leaves the company, is on vacation or has an emergency. Data analysis doesn’t stop as soon as that key player becomes unavailable.

“You only have to program it once, and you’re done,” Holms says. “It’s all in the database, and they don’t have to email anybody in case they didn’t get the report.”

READ MORE: Data Warehouse Types: How To Choose the Right One


Have you ever tried to access a report so robust that you thought your computer might break down? You’re not alone.

Another benefit of business intelligence automation is the ability to scale.

“Sometimes your data’s so large, it’s hard for Excel to even open, right?” Holms says. “How does sales correlate with product performance, correlate with manufacturing, correlate with this? —putting it in one place makes things a lot easier to expand.”

Save Money

There are multiple ways BI automation can save your company money:

  • You may be able to reduce headcount on your analytics team and reinvest those savings elsewhere
  • The time you do save – as mentioned earlier – is time for which you’re no longer paying
  • The data itself could unveil inefficiencies in your business that are ripe for improvement
  • Manual intervention is expensive. By cutting out intermediaries, and empowering decision-makers more quickly, they can use expertise that no program can account for to make impactful decisions


Humans are much more error-prone than machines. Especially well-designed and well-programmed machines.

While you wouldn’t want to automate a process so heavily that it’s no longer monitored, the correct calibration can set your team much more at ease.

“You’re building good processes to make sure it’s consistent. It’s done by computers, so once you do it once it’s pretty robust, unless the data itself changes or the business changes,” Holms says. “Sometimes you just get errors that are difficult to detect. And if you want to go back to see what were my numbers last week or two weeks ago or three months ago, you have to go into your email inbox and search for the report.”

With BI automation, you can leave the inbox behind and find everything you need in your dashboard.

“It’s all in the database,” Holms says, “and they don’t have to email anybody in case they didn’t get the report.”

Dynamic Reports

As we already hinted at above, automated dashboards and visualizations are essentially living, breathing databases.

Instead of plugging new information into a spreadsheet every time you want to update a report, it’s available instantaneously. Not only that. Since it’s connected to the source, you don’t have to input the data at all.

“Once you have it all there getting updated predictably, you can create these really rich charts and graphs, because with these tools you can get these visuals that aren’t static,” Datus says. “The real-time dashboards update as the data comes into the system. So if you want to see one chart or the set of 20 charts for last week just for finance, you can click a few things, and you can get that report.”

Risks of Automation

While automation can be valuable to a business, it doesn’t come without some potential downside. With the right help, though, we believe all of these can be overcome.

Job Loss

Automation may replace human workers and lead to job losses – at least in the short term.

A benefit of this, though, is that it frees those some people up to learn and use new skills that are equally valuable to the business. Money saved on one area of human capital can be reinvested in your talent.

System Failures

Automated systems can experience technical issues, thereby disrupting business operations. You would hope that this is the exception and not the norm, but even so, manual intervention may be required to fix the issues.

Expert service providers, however, are familiar with the most common vulnerabilities, and will know how to not only fix them, but also proactively prevent them.

READ MORE: What is Technical Debt in Due Diligence?

Lack of Flexibility

Automated systems are designed to handle repetitive, routine tasks in a predetermined manner. They may lack the flexibility to adapt to unexpected situations or changes.

This is quickly changing, though, with the implementation of more and more AI tools that can often course-correct much faster than humans.

This perceived “risk” is quickly becoming a moot point in many senses.


Implementing and maintaining automated systems can be expensive. This is most likely to be an issue for very small businesses that have less to automate and can handle all their data by traditional means.

Large companies with more robust budgets will probably find that the investment is well worth it in the long run. This includes private equity firms, their portcos, and private and public companies of all shapes and sizes.

While automation involves these and other risks, it’s an increasingly valuable and in-demand facet of business intelligence. Based on the feedback we receive from our clients and expert service providers, we wouldn’t shy away from exploring how your business can benefit from automation.

BI Automation Tools

Now that you have considered the pros and cons of BI Automation, it’s time to look at the tools at your disposal. While all of these can have a significant impact on your business, you want to make sure you’re using the right ones.

Let’s get familiar with a few of the high-level categories, as well as some specific business automation technologies within them. That way, when our research and operations team connects you to a tailor-made, niche-specific firm to set up your BI automation, you’ll have an idea of what you’re looking for.


BI automation dashboards display key performance indicators, data points and other important metrics in an easy-to-understand format. They provide a 360-degree view of performance using charts, graphs and other visuals.

They offer a quick-glance overview of your organization’s most important metrics, allowing users to quickly identify areas of strong or weak performance, spot emerging trends and gain data-driven insights. Some examples include Power BI, Tableau and Qlik Sense.

READ MORE: Platform Modernization: App, Software Upgrade

Common metrics used to evaluate business performance are cash flow, customer satisfaction and website traffic. Others include sales revenue and customer loyalty.

When you work with an experienced data analytics firm, they’ll be able to match your business needs to the right tools.


BI automation visualizations enable end users to execute automated workflows based on insights within a report. The workflows can be data-contextual, meaning they can change based on filters.

They are often used to connect multiple data sources, create interactive dashboards and charts, provide real-time visualizations and alerts and utilize natural language processing.

Power Automate visual, DataBox, Datapine, Domo and IBM Cognos Analytics are a few of these tools. They can be used to connect to Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, social media platforms and more.

Predictive Analytics

This type of BI automation tool leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically generate and apply predictive models based on data insights. Predictive models are employed to forecast what may occur in the future dependent on historical and current data.

These are often used to predict things like customer churn, sales revenue and product demand. They’re especially utilized in the healthcare, finance and marketing industries.

Some of the more popular tools include RapidMiner, Alteryx, SAS Visual Analytics, KNIME, and SAP Analytics Cloud.

Data Mining

Data mining techniques to extract valuable insights from large data sets for making more informed decisions. It’s a branch of data science that searches for patterns, anomalies and correlations in using statistics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

READ MORE: How To Extract Data from ERP Systems

It’s often used to solve customer segmentation, fraud detection and market basket analysis. Many of the tools listed in the sections above can also be used for these tasks.

If a lot of this sounds new to you and your team, that’s OK. In fact, Holms says that even a well-composed manual report can be a great launching point for BI automation.

“I would say even if you have an Excel report and it’s a good Excel report, you’re already ahead of the game,” he says.

If you don’t know where to start, set up a scoping call with our research and operations team. We’ll connect you to world-class firms like Datus’s, Holms’, or other PE-grade service providers that can serve your exact needs for your particular industry.

*Privacy is important to us. While the source and company name have been changed, these are real quotations from a real service provider in the BluWave Business Builders’ Network.