You’ve likely heard of BI (Business Intelligence), but have you stopped to think what the ramifications really are? BI does to companies—that is, those who use it correctly—what the Internet did for research: it opens up a whole new world of capabilities. Companies that use BI will definitely have the upper hand over companies that don’t.

BI isn’t a new idea, IBM researcher Hans Peter Luhn was talking about business intelligence in 1958, and in 1989, Howard Dresner, gave a specific definition to business intelligence.  BI has definitely made a splash recently as current database and reporting tools have advanced.  It’s more of a science and much more commonplace. Some predictions for BI use in 2012 have included “record” spending on BI Solutions, a demand for geographic-intelligent functions within BI solutions, a surge in the use of mobile BI, and an explosion in digital content volume (as more and more companies store more data).

Take UPS for example. The company has always strived to cut fuel use and costs, and through their use of BI a few years back—analyzing their stored data—realized that left hand turns actually use more fuel (imagine waiting for a break in oncoming traffic to turn) So they developed a GPS system for their drivers—one that takes trucks through routes using mostly right hand turns. Not only does it save gas (in 2007, for example, it saved 3 million gallons of gas) but it prevents more accidents! Follow a truck someday and see for yourself.

At the end of the day, optimal use of BI means better service, better products and more cost savings.  Data is the “lifeblood” of the information systems within companies. As an organization, you do something proactive with the data that’s being collected and saved, or in the end you’ll struggle against those who do.

BI use is mounting and aside from giving companies a platform from which they can be even more competitive, BI demand has carved out a niche industry for software developers. And as more companies make BI a priority, there will be a continual increased need for those with a working knowledge of analytics. It’s clear that BI is just hitting puberty; expect several more years of growth!