Business Intelligence, The Past. The Present. The Future

Business intelligence (BI) is about analysing data, and that’s it. It’s a broad term for any software that helps you make sense of information. If a computer can collect it, BI can organize it in such a way to help you discover valuable insights into your business.

You may be thinking “I don’t have much data” or “I can’t afford expensive BI software.” But don’t let these stand between you and the competitive edge that comes with business intelligence! What people commonly think of as a tool for large companies is also great for small businesses and start-ups.

The Past: Business Intelligence Has Been Around A Long Time


“Business Intelligence” is a pretty fancy-sounding term, but BI has been around for a long time—it’s just gotten more sophisticated as technology has advanced.

It’s been used for many years to help companies get more organized and streamlined in their practices.

Sometimes BI is called organizational learning. Other names include: Business Performance Management, Decision Support System, and Decision Support Tools.

They’re all different ways of saying the same thing: a company needs to make decisions based on data, not feelings or hunches alone.

Think back to when you would go shopping in a brick and mortar store. You walk in and pick out what you want, but first, they ask for your email address.

When you get home, you find a survey in your inbox asking about your experience. You feel like it’s just another thing on your plate so you skip over it without responding.

However, there’s a good chance that someone else will fill out the survey and tell them how great or awful their experience was.

Later on, that business is going to look at all of the collected data (from people who filled out the survey) and use this information to make changes to better improve the customer experience.

That company is using business intelligence!

The Present: Business Intelligence Is a Tool For All


Business Intelligence (also known as BI) is a tool for everyone! Think about it, BI is not only a tool for every business and business owner in the world. It is also a tool for every employee, consumer, student and researcher. The reason why we can all apply the principles of Business Intelligence to our everyday lives is that we are all involved in an organization in one way or another.

When thinking about how to use BI to our advantage, we should ask ourselves how an organization works? In order for any organization to be successful they must have three things:

  • A vision/mission statement that promotes growth and financial health
  • An effective strategy which will help them achieve this goal
  • Great leadership

Without these three components, an organization cannot function properly and will not be able to succeed financially or grow their brand. This means that whether you are working at a company or just trying to get through school, you need to create your own set of goals and find ways to implement them so that you can be successful as well.

The Future: Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things


We’ve seen a lot of changes in the world of business intelligence over the past few decades. In the early days, business intelligence was largely about basic analytics—tracking sales, looking at trends, and so on.

But then with the advent of cloud computing and the internet, it exploded into something that was still about analytics but also about so much more. And today, we’re on the precipice of another explosion—this time in the form of cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT).

The IoT refers to the idea that all internet-connected devices will be able to communicate with each other and exchange data.

The cloud is a set of remote servers that store data and software which can be accessed from anywhere.

Together, these two ideas could mean that business intelligence could move away from being tied to any one device or location.

The Internet of Things is the future of technology. A world in which all devices are connected, and all data can be shared in real time. The tech industry has been moving toward this for decades but with the prevalence of cloud computing and the accessibility of internet access, it will finally become a reality.

The possibilities for what can be done with cloud computing and IoT are limitless!

For example, a medical device manufacturer that offers a cloud-based diabetes monitoring systems would allow patients to share their blood glucose levels with doctors remotely and more frequently than if they were visiting a doctor’s office on a regular basis—this makes it easier for the doctors to interpret blood sugar patterns and adjust insulin doses accordingly.

IoT allows for more efficient processing of information across multiple platforms. It also makes it easier for businesses to scale their operations by eliminating the need for physical infrastructure on-site at each location where they operate.

In the future, all decisions about how an organization functions and what it does could be made through an app on your smart phone—and when you aren’t around to make a decision? Your IoT devices could do it for you!

Business intelligence is going to be huge in the future


Business Intelligence is the competitive advantage in today’s competitive business environment, and every company wants to tap into that. Data is the new oil and provides a competitive advantage for those companies who are able to leverage data effectively.

Data is how you understand your customer, anticipate their needs and get ahead of the competition by providing solutions before your customers ask for them.

It used to be that only large corporations with huge IT departments had the capabilities to have Business Intelligence teams, but now even small companies can benefit from using these tools.

This is why BI has become an industry buzzword over the past few years – because it’s no longer a luxury but a necessity.

You might be thinking that implementing Business Intelligence tools in your organization seems like a daunting task – you may not even know where to start or what questions to ask when looking at solutions.

But BI isn’t just one thing – there are many aspects of Business Intelligence like data warehousing, dashboard reporting, etc., and it’s important for you to identify which components would make sense based on your requirements and goals.

Think about this as an ongoing journey rather than just a project; you don’t want to invest time in selecting solutions that aren’t going to work for you long-term or end up costing you more money in the future (by choosing something too expensive or inflexible).



You’ve seen how business intelligence has evolved. From its beginnings as an analytical tool to its current role as a competitive advantage, business intelligence has gone through several stages of growth.

After the Y2K scare, companies began using data more intelligently in order to stay ahead of their competitors.

We’ve learned that business intelligence is anything but a fad; in fact, it’s only going to become more important to organizations over the next decade and beyond.

In this article, we asked you to take a look at where business intelligence came from and where it’s heading in the near future (and beyond). If you’re still a bit confused about BI definitions, don’t worry—we’ll be focusing on different aspects of BI for upcoming articles!

In the meantime – If you’re looking to turn your business into an intelligence enterprise, give us a call today on 01244 676900.

Apico International: Racing ahead through speed of processing

Since its inception in 1984, Apico has gone from strength to strength, earning a loyal customer base of UK and European business partners, who come to Apico first because of its excellent customer service, reliability and flexibility.  Moreover, despite the recent recession, Apico has managed to continue its impressive growth throughout both tough economic times and most recently, months where flooding and bad weather has periodically prevented motor racing in parts of the UK altogether.

Founded 30 years ago by three times world trials champion Yrjo Vesterinen, Apico is a family run business that has a reputation for quality of product and service, aligned with a strong dedication to motor racing.

Five years ago, Apico was using a different business system, which albeit well known in the motor racing industry, was bespoke and difficult to develop, as Apico’s Purchasing Manager Anna Lena Eriksson explains: “We always felt like the guinea pigs with the old system.  We were at a point where we had all had enough of not being able to link different processes together and decided to look for something that was Windows-based, more globally accessible and most importantly, something that was already tried and tested by other wholesale and distribution businesses.”

Why SAP Business One?

Anna’s initial thoughts on SAP Business One were that it looked smart and easy to use.  Adamant to have a Windows-based system that integrated with Microsoft applications such as Excel, the team at Apico were really impressed with the functionality SAP Business One offered as standard: “The first meeting with Signum blew us away,” says Anna, “We were amazed by what was possible – from statistics to reports; being able to drill down into orders, invoicing and business partner information was pretty amazing for us.”


Speaking about the difference in the level of customer service that Apico is now able to offer, Anna says: “The old system couldn’t keep track of stock or process orders at any speed, so we could become cornered and wouldn’t be able to answer questions about specific part numbers or if something had been back ordered.  Now, we can confidently rely on the new system for this information and use it to assist our customers with running their businesses.”  Elaborating on how the ordering process works to Apico customers’ benefit, Anna expands: “Since the recession, our customers can’t afford to hold as much stock in their shops.  To make things easier for them, if a customer calls us at 5pm to make an order for delivery the next morning, we can do this ready for our pick-up at 5.30pm, because the system is able to process orders quickly enough for us to make it happen.  Before, we had a cut-off of 3pm for next day delivery, but since implementing SAP Business One we’ve become a well-oiled machine and can be far more flexible.”

Previously, everything was manually input and nothing was integrated, so stock figures were never reliable.  The difference with having business processes  integrated in one system means that Apico is now able to run sales and purchasing reports and easily compare figures from previous periods.  “It’s a huge benefit,” Anna describes, “From a seasonality perspective we can now plan and see what’s in stock.  We are always easily able to see where we are, where we should be and plan where we want to go.

“Using a reliable system makes our customers see us as more reliable too.  Being able to plan and keep things in stock means that we can offer a better service.  This, alongside being able to take orders up until 5pm has certainly helped with our profitability.  After all, if we couldn’t do it, our customers would go to our competition.

Why Signum Solutions?

“Choosing SAP Business One from Signum Solutions is a decision that Apico has never regretted: “I would definitely recommend SAP and Signum to other wholesale businesses,” says Anna, “Our partnership with Signum is great and the system works extremely well for wholesale, in particular the stock holding   functionality is brilliant.”


Read the full case study.