Although business intelligence technologies have some common functions, their main function is to support a company's decision-making process and to help knowledge workers, such as managers and research analysts, make better and faster decisions.

Functions of business intelligence technologies vary by industry. For example, they are used in manufacturing for order shipment and customer support, in retail for user targeting and profiling, in financial and banking services for claims and risk analysis, in transportation for fleet management, in telecommunications for understanding customer drop-off rates, and in power and utilities for power usage analysis.

Overall, business intelligence is a data analysis process aimed at boosting company performance in relation to its competitors by helping end users within the company make more informed decisions.

The technology-driven process of business intelligence involves a variety of functions, technology tools, applications and methodologies that help a company collect data, prepare analyses, develop and conduct queries of databases, and create reports. Every function is used to support business decisions.

The data used in business intelligence can include historical as well as new data gathered from outside sources. Business intelligence then takes that data and combines a broad set of data analysis applications and functions, such as ad hoc analysis, querying, enterprise reporting, online analytical processing, data visualization software, dashboards and performance scorecards.

Business intelligence applications with unique and important functions can be bought separately from third-party vendors or as part of a single business intelligence platform.

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