5 Business Intelligence Tools You Need to Know

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover insights to make important business decisions with these five business intelligence tools.

[Featured image] A business analyst uses a BI tool to create a dashboard on a wide monitor.

Just like a handyman needs a toolbox equipped with hammers, nails, and screwdrivers, individuals pursuing careers in business intelligence (BI) must be familiar with certain software tools. Business intelligence involves the functions, strategies, and tools companies use to collect, process, and analyse data.

Business intelligence tools can identify new opportunities for businesses to improve return on investment (ROI) and competitive advantage based on insights found. These tools are used across all departments, industries, and business users, so consider exploring one to accelerate your career.

Here’s a look at the benefits of BI tools and five of the most commonly used tools.

What is a business intelligence (BI) tool?

Business intelligence tools collect, process, and analyse large amounts of structured and unstructured data from both internal and external systems. Data sources might include documents, images, emails, videos, journals, books, social media posts, files, and more. BI tools find this information through queries, which can present the data in user-friendly formats such as reports, dashboards, charts, and graphs.

The tools can perform functions such as data mining, data visualisation, performance management, analytics, reporting, text mining, predictive analytics, and much more. As a result, employees can harness this information to make better decisions based on predictions, market trends, and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Benefits of BI tools

BI tools can help your business take smart, agile steps towards accomplishing bigger goals. 

Centralised data: All of your data, in one place. Companies collect data from numerous databases, portals, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and more. To make sense of it all, you’ll need business intelligence tools to pool the data together and deliver certain types of views (issues, trends, analytics) based on your queries or what you want to know. 

Self-sufficiency: Data no longer just belongs to your company’s IT team. Now, any employee without technical expertise, even interns, can access and analyse data necessary for their respective teams. They can generate reports on all electronics sales in 2020 or visualise patient records to identify the number of COVID-19 cases in 2022.

Make predictions: With access to so much data from the past and present, employees can make evidence-based decisions. Predictive analytics and forecasting enable users to generate insights based on a product or service’s performance history. If a business condition changes, intelligent tools can automatically figure out the anomalies, and you’ll be able to react to disruptions as they arise. 

Automatic reports: Instead of inputting data manually into Excel spreadsheets or toggling between different tools, many BI tools are automated. If you need a report on a product over a specific time, the tool will generate that for you. If that information is significant and you want to add it to a presentation, you can create interactive visualisations and download any charts or graphs you may need.

Reduces business costs: BI tools can do so much, from analysing consumer behaviour and sales forecasting to real-time process monitoring, that analysing, planning, and reporting processes are way more efficient and accurate than ever before. In fact, while 70 per cent of BI tools users reported that these benefits helped them reduce costs, almost 60 per cent reported increased revenue [1].

Today, there are dozens of BI tools available. To determine the top five, these were the most commonly cited amongst 10 websites that ranked the best BI tools. These five BI tools are not ranked in any particular order:

1. Microsoft Power BI

One of the most popular BI tools is Power BI, offered by leading software giant Microsoft. This tool is downloadable software, so you can choose to run analytics either on the cloud or in a reporting server. Syncing with sources such as Facebook, Oracle, and more, generate reports and dashboards in minutes with this interactive tool. It comes with built-in AI capabilities, Excel integration, and data connectors, and it offers end-to-end data encryption and real-time access monitoring.

Learn Power BI with Coursera: In just two hours, you can learn the basics of Power BI Desktop with this guided project. You’ll load and transform data to create interactive reports and dashboards.

2. Tableau

Tableau is known for its user-friendly data visualisation capabilities, but it can do more than make pretty charts. Their offering includes live visual analytics, an interface that allows users to drag and drop buttons to spot trends in data quickly. The tool supports data sources such as Microsoft Excel, Box, PDF files, Google Analytics, and more. Its versatility extends to being able to connect with most databases.

Learn Tableau with Coursera: There are several options for learning how to use Tableau.

3. QlikSense

QlikSense is a BI tool that emphasises a self-service approach, meaning that it supports a wide range of analytics use cases, from guided apps and dashboards to custom and embedded analytics. It offers a user-friendly interface optimised for touchscreens, sophisticated AI, and high-performance cloud platforms. Its associative exploration capability, Search & Conversational Analytics, allows users to ask questions and uncover actionable insights, which helps increase data literacy for those new to using BI tools.

4. Dundas BI

Dundas BI is a browser-based BI tool that’s been around for 25 years. Like Tableau, Dundas BI features a drag-and-drop function that allows users to analyse data on their own without involving their IT team. The tool is known for its simplicity and flexibility through interactive dashboards, reports, and visual analytics. Since its inception as a data visualisation tool in 1992, it has evolved into an end-to-end analytics platform that is able to compete with the new BI tools available today.

5. Sisense

Sisense is a user-friendly BI tool that focuses on being simplified and streamlined. With this tool, you can export data from sources like Google Analytics, Salesforce, and more. Its in-chip technology allows for faster data processing compared to other tools. Key features include the ability to embed white-label analytics, meaning a company can fully customise the services to its needs. Like others, it has a drag-and-drop feature. Sisense allows you to share reports and dashboards with your team members as well as externally.

Other popular BI tools include: Zoho Analytics, Oracle BI, SAS Visual Analytics, Domo, Datapine, Yellowfin BI, Looker, SAP Business Objects, Clear Analytics, Board, MicroStrategy, IBM Cognos Analytics, Tibco Spotfire, BIRT, Intercom, Google Data Studio, and HubSpot.


List BI tools on your CV

You can get familiar with one or more BI tools by learning independently or on the job. Many top companies use them, so you can benefit from listing the most common ones in the skills section of your CV if it makes sense for the role and industry in which you’re applying. Hiring managers may specifically keep an eye out for applicants who have experience with specific BI tools, especially if it is referenced in the job description.

Explore business intelligence with Coursera

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in data analytics as a data analyst, data scientist, or data warehouse specialist, consider enrolling in Google’s Data Analytics Professional Certificate on Coursera. You’ll gain the skills needed to analyse, manage, and visualise data for business insights and launch your career in business intelligence.

Article sources

  1. BARC. “The Benefits of Business Intelligence, https://bi-survey.com/benefits-business-intelligence.” Accessed August 15, 2023.

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