Business intelligence (BI) software is applied at three different levels in the enterprise: strategic, tactical and operational. At the strategic level, BI provides performance metrics to management and executives, often in conjunction with a formal management methodology such as Balanced Scorecard or Six Sigma. Strategic business intelligence, one of the latest crazes, is generally called performance management (PM). Depending upon which analyst firm you subscribe to, PM might be preceded by a C for corporate performance management, an E for enterprise performance management or a B for business performance management (not to be confused with BPM, the acronym for business process management).

Tactical business intelligence, called traditional and/or analytical in various industry articles, is the application of business intelligence tools to analyze business trends, frequently comparing a specific metric (such as sales or expenses) to the same metric from a previous month or year. In most companies, there are usually a few analysts in each department who use online analytical processing (OLAP) and ad hoc query to perform this task. To date, BI tools are mostly used to analyze historical business data to discover trends or anomalies that need attention.

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