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Business Intelligence (BI) Testing: A Comprehensive Guide

5 Apr
5 Minutes
Software Testing

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    Data is the new power source for modern companies. It’s being fed into most applications and products. Using this data, companies are working relentlessly to provide the best and the most profitable solutions.

    So how are these companies utilizing data?

    It won’t be wrong to say that data is being played with, day and night. Modern applications have developed brilliant ways to get insights from data to help grow companies exponentially.

    Although spreadsheets are still used in many companies all around to keep track of everything, businesses are growing so much that it has become impossible to maintain data and records on spreadsheets. Huge datasets are being stored across databases hosted on cloud infrastructure or giant servers located at the company’s location.

    Now imagine that a company has to do something with all the information stored on cloud-based servers or even on their on-premise servers.

    What if need to use that data to get insights into their businesses? How would they process these? How would they keep track of everything?

    The solution to these comes in the form of Business Intelligence (BI) tools. Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and IBM Cognos Analytics are some of the well-known tools for the same. They provide some of the best user interfaces and analytical capabilities for most business use cases regardless of how scaled up they are.

    How would we make sure that these applications are working as expected and the insights that we are getting from them are accurate?

    It only makes sense to test all aspects of the Business Intelligence (BI) ecosystem. Software testing companies or QA experts make sure of it.

    Let’s try to cover the Business Intelligence (BI) topics in the context of software testing. As an established software testing company in India, QAble brings you such content based on real-world case studies and experiences.

    This blog will provide a very practical and comprehensive overview of Business Intelligence or BI testing.

    Table of Content
    1. What is Business Intelligence or BI?
    2. What is Business Intelligence or BI Testing?
    3. How to Test Data for Business Intelligence (BI)?
    4. How to Test Business Intelligence (BI) Tools?
    5. How to Test Business Intelligence (BI) Reports?
    6. Make Smart Business Decisions with QAble
    7. FAQs

    What is Business Intelligence or BI?

    Business Intelligence or BI is the process of collecting, transforming, and then analyzing data to make use of it for one’s business. The processed data can be used to get insights to make strategies for the business. They help in making informed decisions in favor of the company.

    What is Business Intelligence or BI Testing?

    BI testing can be considered a broad term for testing key components of business data. These components usually include:

    • Testing data that is to be used for business (or the BI Tools).
    • BI testing tool or an application that uses business data for analytics.
    • BI testing of reports generated by a BI testing tool or application.

    We will cover all three of them in the blog. For the same, we will take the example of an imaginary company called ABC serving in the manufacturing domain. It should be noted that this example can be applied to any domain such as healthcare, e-commerce, fintech, and so on.

    How to Test Data for Business Intelligence (BI)?

    In this section, we will cover how to test data for business intelligence.

    Let’s say that ABC Company manufactures parts for heavy machinery. The company serves global customers. How does the ABC company ensure the quality of business data?

    They need to test it. QA testers make sure that the data for the same is relevant for the company’s purposes.

    This is done by testing the Extraction, Transform, and Load, or ETL process systematically. The ETL testing makes sure that the business data is available in is correct and available in the correct format for business usages.

    Let’s find out the steps to test for the ETL process:

    Extracted Data Testing:

    According to our use case here, the ABC company has all the information about the parts manufactured as per the business.

    The raw data coming from some kind of source or flat files have to be cleaned up. These sources usually have data that is not very structured. Relevant data has to be extracted from such sources or flat files. Developers usually create workflows to extract data.

    Now, the extracted data have to be tested for quality. So, how can this be done?

    Below are some of the tests that the QA testers should utilize:

    • The data has to be tested for correct mapping that is being stored in targeted systems or data warehouses.
    • For example, if the items have to be mapped and sent to databases, correct relations should be present as per the schema of the data model.
    • It must be tested and validated that no data is missing as per the business requirements.
    • The extracted data must be accurate. The mapped data should accurately match the source or flat files that we used to extract data.
    • The data has to be extracted with proper logic with correct development workflows.

    Transformed Data Testing:

    The data coming from the source systems has to be used for calculations, aggregations, formatting, and so on. Below are some of the test cases to ensure correct data transformation:

    • The transformed data must be validated for errors or mismatches. These must be reported to the developer teams for resolution.
    • Proper reports for the same must be created to keep track of such issues.
    • There will be cases of missing data. The consistency of the data has to be tested as well.
    • For example, the missing data for missing particulars have to be normalized or they need to be replaced.
    • The logic applied to data transformations as per the business requirements has to be tested as well.
    • Correct data formats must be there in the extracted data.
    • For example, if there are specifics for measurements like weight or dimensions, the extracted data must be in that format only.

    Loaded Data Testing:

    Once the extractions and transformations are tested, the data have to be loaded into the target systems or environments.

    • It must be ensured that the data loaded to the target systems is correct.
    • If there are multiple environments for testing, it must be made sure that all the environments have consistent data.
    • Many times what happens is that the loaded data is lost or even changed while the loading process is triggered. The quality of the same must be tested.
    • Data recovery mechanisms must be tested in case of any issues or system failures.
    • These scenarios must be simulated by the QA testers for robust testing.

    So, these were some of the most important test cases while conducting ETL process testing for business data. They play a crucial role in ensuring that the business goals are achieved.

    Business data testing is one of the most fundamental components of BI testing.

    Also Read: Big Data Automation Testing

    How to Test Business Intelligence (BI) Tools?

    In this section of the blog, we will cover how to test BI tools. ABC Company's business spreads across the globe. The company has loads of data for its the same.

    They need their business data to be analyzed. They want insights from the company’s operational data. Sure, they can use BI tools like Microsoft Power BI or Tableau to get all these.

    But they want their own BI tool customized for their needs and user base. For the same, they have developed an in-house BI tool to keep track of their business.

    The BI tool is ready and it's ready to test.

    So what strategies they must follow for their BI application?

    Below are some of the key methods to use for their BI testing tool:

    Functional Testing:

    The functions of an application have to run as expected. It should be made sure that the BI tool checks green on all the included available features with functional testing.

    • The data coming from the source system or the data lake or warehouse must be accurate.
    • The BI tool must be capable enough to get correct data from the data lake.
    • ABC company has all the data stored on its cloud servers. This data is loaded into the BI tools through data pipelines. Testing for integration with the data pipelines should be done correctly with the BI tool.
    • It must also be made sure that the integration with APIs or external sources if present is done right. API testing through manual and automation testing tools are implemented for the same.
    • The data is being fetched through the pipelines through queries. It must be made sure that the queries are accurate. The BI tools should produce outputs as per the queries.
    • The functionalities like filtering or sorting are being done correctly by the BI tool.
    • Data coming into the BI tools are also aggregated or have to be displayed with some kind of logic. The business logic may be specific to ABC company. So, they need to be tested.
    • Since the BI tool is configured to handle calculations, the results must be accurate.

    Also Read: Benefits of Implementing QAOps

    Usability Testing:

    BI tools must be user-friendly. This can be achieved through usability testing. The screen flows for the BI tool must be validated and kept in sync with real user flows as well. This comes under the UI/UX testing.

    Let’s cover some test cases for usability testing for BI tools.

    • The navigation for the BI tool must be developed in a user-friendly way.
    • The reports and visualizations generated by the BI tool must be easy to read.
    • BI tools have features like printing reports. In such cases, it should be made sure that the reports can be generated or downloaded in the most popular formats for better usability.
    • BI tools often can generate visualizations for data. These visualizations should be clear.
    • The data representations must be in a user-friendly way.
    • The color schemes for displaying them must also be non-distractive.
    • Accessibility testing must be done to make sure that the tool is useful for most audiences regardless of their abilities.
    • The BI tool must have clear documentation to make sure that the users can search through it for reference.
    • The error and exception handling mechanisms for the BI tool must be handled well.
    • The messages or alerts for user actions must be intuitive and readable.
    • The elements or components displayed on the BI tool must be aligned with the users' needs.
    • The representations or labels on the UI must be clear and relevant as per their functions.
    • If the BI tool has functionalities for custom selections, it must be made sure that they are working properly for maximum usability

    Also Read: Best Practices for Documentation in QA

    Security Testing:

    The BI tool must be secure. Company data is sensitive. The BI application must pass all the tests when it comes to security and privacy. The whole business depends on it. Rigorous security testing must be done for the same

    • The BI tool may have various levels of security. Only the people who have security clearance or valid permission to access data or features through the BI tool must be able to access it.
    • Permissions may be based upon the roles like admin, manager, or user in ABC company. Security testing can make sure of it.
    • Data transmission from or into the data lakes or warehouse must be encrypted. All the protocols for the same must be tested.
    • The decrypting logic must be robust to prevent any mishaps.
    • The authentication and authorization systems must be tested.
    • For example, if a session is time-bound in the BI tool, then this should be properly tested.
    • The data masking feature is very commonly made into BI tools. This feature makes sure that the people who are not authorized are not able to access sensitive data.
    • The BI tools must comply with security and data-sharing protocols.
    • It must be ensured that the BI tool is firewalled for malicious cyber attacks, XSS (cross-site scripting) attacks, DDoS attacks, and similar threats.
      In case of data breaches relevant mechanisms must be put in place to make sure that the data is protected.

    Also read: 7 Benefits of Security Testing in Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

    Performance and Scalability Testing:

    The ABC Company must make sure their BI tool can perform without any issues with heavy loads. The BI tool must be tested for performance. Since ABC company provides services to global users, its BI tool must be made in a scalable way.

    • Testing must be done by subjecting the tool to heavy loads.
    • The performance should be monitored. Relevant optimizations must be done accordingly.
    • The report generation performance of the BI application must also be tested.
    • The complexities of data generated must be taken into account as well. This makes sure that the application is performant enough.
    • Data exchanges are done very often in BI apps. The tool must be performant enough to fetch data or send responses without any delays.
    • Caching is a great way to optimize load times in any application. The cache mechanisms must be tested for the BI app.
    • The tool must be able to handle large datasets being imported into it.
    • The response and the refresh time should also be measured. These must be validated through the pre-selected KPIs.
    • The optimizations for memory usage and resource utilization by the BI tool must also be tested.

    Also Read: How to Test Scalability for Cloud-based SaaS Products

    How to Test Business Intelligence (BI) Reports?

    Now that we are through with testing business data and business intelligence tools, business reports are to be tested as well. These are the assets that provide key business insights and help analyze everything.

    Let’s see some methods for Business Intelligence Report testing scenarios.

    UI/UX Testing:

    • The BI reports must be generated in a consistent layout without any information gaps.
    • The typography, spacing, and color schemes of the report must align with the brand guidelines. Visual testing should be done for the same. UI/UX testing takes care of most of it.
    • The report must also provide a cohesive and intuitive user experience.
    • The BI report must be accessible to most regardless of the users’ abilities which can be done with accessibility testing.

    Also Read: Visual Testing for Ensuring Software Quality: Why It’s Important

    Performance Testing:

    • Reports are usually created with aggregated data. While the reports are being generated, the performance and response times of report generation must also be tested.
    • Since the data to be aggregated and displayed may be coming from multiple data sources, the report generation must not affect the performance of the BI tool.

    Usability Testing:

    • The generated report must provide insights that are relevant to the user’s usability.
    • Charts, graphs, or visualizations must portray clear and precise information.
    • There must be proper labeling of these elements.
    • Navigating through the report must not be a hassle.
    • The level of granularity in the reports must align with the business requirements and use cases.

    Scalability Testing:

    • The scalability of the generated reports must also be taken into account.
    • For example, the report must adjust itself with scaled-up or scaled-down parameters like the reporting period included and the metrics used for specifics.

    Make Smart Business Decisions with QAble

    QAble has been providing software testing services in India and abroad for many years. We truly know the power of Business Intelligence (BI) and its importance to make smart and informed business decisions. Testing for Business Intelligence (BI) can be complex. It also requires special expertise and skills. The experienced QA team understands it.

    QAble uses the latest and the most suited methods for testing your BI tools and business data. Below are some of the many QA consulting services offered by us to help you make smart decisions with relevant the relevant Business Intelligence (BI) for your needs:

    • Functional Testing: We test your BI tool to make sure that you deliver only the best experience to your valued users. We test your applications to the best industry standards. We make sure all the integrations for your applications work as expected and there are no issues or bugs within your system.
    • API Testing: Business Intelligence (BI) tools are integrated with multiple APIs. QAble used manual and automation tools for the connected APIs regardless of the architectural complexities.
    • Load and Performance Testing: Data handling is not easy. Applications have to be performant to meet the multiple users at the same time. BI tools have to deal with so many different calculations and tasks. QAble makes sure that your BI tools are ready to take on heavy loads without any issues.
    • Security Testing: We ensure that your business is handled with utmost security. We house only the best and the most skilled security testers to eliminate potential threats and risks for your applications.

    We have a team of experienced and certified testers who can handle any business intelligence testing project. QAble also uses the latest tools and technologies to deliver high-quality results in a timely and cost-effective manner.

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    Written by Nishil Patel

    CEO & Founder

    Nishil is a successful serial entrepreneur. He has more than a decade of experience in the software industry. He advocates for a culture of excellence in every software product.


    What is Business Intelligence or BI in the simplest terms?

    Business Intelligence or BI is the process of collecting, transforming, and then analyzing data to make use of it for one’s business.

    What role do Business Intelligence (BI) tools play?

    Business Intelligence (BI) tools help to process business data. This data can be used to get insights to make strategies for the business. They help in making informed decisions in favor of the company.

    What methods or strategies can be used to test BI tools and BI Reports?

    Some of the testing strategies for testing Business Intelligence comprises UI/UX testing, usability testing, functional testing, load and performance testing, API testing, and security testing.

    What are some of the most commonly used Business Intelligence (BI) tools?

    Some of the most used BI tools include Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and IBM Cognos Analytics.

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