Business Intelligence or Business Analytics: Are they the same!?

What’s the difference between Business Analytics and Business Intelligence? The correct answer is: everybody has an opinion, and it is hard to find the same one.

For example, when SAP says “business analytics” instead of “business intelligence”, it’s intended to indicate that business analytics is an umbrella term including data warehousing, business intelligence, enterprise information management, enterprise performance management, analytic applications, governance, risk, and compliance.

But other vendors (such as SAS) use “business analytics” to indicate some level of vertical/horizontal domain knowledge tied with statistical or predictive analytics.

While I come across multiple keyword searches, I have found that there is a lot of different expert prospectives in terms of understanding the distinction between these two touchstone terms.

Technically Speaking…

Business Intelligence (BI) is a very broad term using the data available to your organization to make factually based business decisions. This can take on a number of forms and methods but generally includes doing things such as developing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Trending Analysis, Predictive Modeling and dashboards. The requirement of the BI system has been to monitor the data based on pre-configured questions requiring only a thin client environment to inform the user.

Furthermore, it measures past performance and guide business planning. Business Intelligence consists of querying, reporting, OLAP (online analytical processing), and can answer questions including “what happened,” “how many,” and “how often.”

Business Analytics (BA) is the heart of BI that doesn’t include the actual business decision making, but the steps that lead up to the decision, BA is the act of discovering insights using any tooling or services at your disposal. Every business will inevitably want to look at data in a different way and supplement with other bits of data. This is where Business Analytics kicks in.

The public opinion is shifting in favor of analytics and BI is losing out, I believe analytics became the more fashionable word around the same time that vendors felt the market was mature enough for their sophisticated products.

There are a lot of big words that get thrown around in the world of BI, and it’s easy to get lost in a whirlwind of interpretation. Though it is commonly called the BI field, the number of Google searches for “business analytics” have risen sharply in the past 10 years vs. a mild decline for “business intelligence.”

Last but not least, Analysis that isn’t Intelligent is useless. Capturing intelligence without doing analysis is a waste of time, and Intelligence that isn’t based on analysis of intelligence isn’t Intelligent.


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