Business intelligence tools made headlines this year with the high-profile acquisition of two popular solutions. Salesforce, the leader in CRM software, purchased Tableau, the frontrunner in analytics and data visualization software earlier this spring. Additionally, Google acquired Looker, a business intelligence tool, for $3 billion in order to roll data visualization and analytics into its Google Cloud offerings. 

Why are two tech industry heavyweights betting big on business intelligence?

As companies strive to embrace digital transformation and become data-driven, business intelligence and analytics solutions are critical to building a workforce that is fluent in all things data, regardless of skill or experience level. 

According to research from IBM, by 2020, there will be over 2.7 million job openings in the US for data professionals. A growing concern of leaders around big data is twofold: 1) How to hire skilled data analysts and scientists and 2) How to equip all employees with the skills needed to derive actionable business strategy from the data collected. Why? Unlocking meaning from data is the key for businesses to remain competitive in the age of digital transformation.

What is business intelligence? A data-driven foundation 

Business intelligence (BI) is often a company’s first foray into data democratization across its workforce. It’s a type of data analysis that includes the preparation of structured data from many sources to then build dashboards, graphs, charts, and other data visualizations that detail the state of the business. BI is different from concepts like predictive analytics, which uses machine learning techniques to make predictions about future events related to the business. According to, “Business intelligence leverages software and services to transform data into actionable intelligence that informs an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions.”

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Business intelligence recognizes that it’s not just employees with “data” in their titles who need access to product data and customer data to answer strategic questions. Through BI tools, business analysts and product managers can run data queries themselves. This allows a data science team to reserve their time for larger-scale projects rather than pulling hourly, daily, or weekly reports. Investing in BI solutions allows teams to automate data analysis and the reporting of that data, thereby saving time and money by reinvesting resources into new business initiatives. 

5 business intelligence tools for self-service data

Popular business intelligence solutions have helped to create what Gartner calls “citizen data scientists.” These are employees empowered to run their own data analysis and build business strategy recommendations via the storytelling and visualization elements that have driven BI tools’ adoption. 

Some of the most popular BI solutions include:


Before its acquisition by Salesforce, Tableau was already known as a leader in business intelligence solutions. Over 86,000 global companies, including Netflix and Southwest, use Tableau to access, prepare, visualize, and share data across teams, with no coding required. Tableau’s popularity as a business intelligence solution soared largely thanks to an interface friendly to non-technical users of all levels. Interactive reports and visualizations allow employees without a data science background to extract worthwhile meaning from data and circulate these findings to relevant stakeholders.  

The Udemy course Tableau 10 A-Z course covers how to connect Tableau to datasets; analyze, blend, join, and calculate data; and visualize data through various types of charts, plots, and maps. 


Alteryx was named one of Udemy’s top trending tech skills of 2019 thanks to its hybrid approach to data wrangling and modern data science with machine learning. It also offers a different service than some business intelligence tools, with an emphasis on preparing your data for analysis. It uses a no-code approach to extracting, transforming, cleaning, and preparing data. While Alteryx’s strength is in streamlining many data sources into one, it’s best used with a visualization tool like Tableau. 

Enroll in the Alteryx Bootcamp course on Udemy to learn how to prepare your company’s data for gathering deep insights.  


An essential tool for those new to data and business analytics, Microsoft Power BI offers an analysis tool that can connect to hundreds of data sources, build complex relational models, and design interactive dashboards. Its compatibility with Microsoft Office makes it ideal for teams already in the Microsoft ecosystem. An intuitive UI makes learning the tool simple and an active user community offers plenty of data visualization inspiration for graphs that will stand out in your next executive presentation. 

Enroll in Microsoft Power BI – Up & Running With Power BI Desktop and learn the fundamentals of this user-friendly data tool. 


Splunk moves beyond the basics of many business intelligence solutions. With Splunk, IT professionals can combine BI functionalities of structured data with unstructured machine-generated data to tap into a more holistic view of the company. Though powerful business insights can be gathered from Splunk, the tool’s complexity does necessitate more investment in training.

Discover how to deploy Splunk in different types of environments; analyze data from a provided dataset; build data models; design dashboards; and create reports and alerts in The Complete Splunk Beginner Course


Best known for two separate product offerings, Qlik Sense and QlikView, Qlik is a BI tool particularly adept at quickly combining datasets of all sizes. Both the Sense and View tools are built on Qlik’s associative engine, which links data elements based on commonalities rather than a more traditional SQL query. Qlik Sense is largely a data exploration tool, while QlikView’s focus is primarily on BI reports and visualizations. 

Master Qlik products in the QlikSense Data Architect Masterclass or the Complete QlikView Boot Camp

Data literacy is a skill organizations of all sizes must encourage teams to learn, from data prep to visualization to data storytelling. The benefits of using BI tools like the ones described here and training employees to be citizen data scientists have far-reaching benefits to a company, including discovering new revenue opportunities and creating business efficiencies. Discover more about business intelligence skills and training in a Udemy for Business demo.