The question “Are the terms Business Intelligence and Business Analytics interchangeable?” – launched two months ago – continues to spark discussion. There are now more than 130 responses to this poll, with the following findings as of last weekend:
- They are different terms for the same concept – 10.3 percent
- BI is a product of BA – 22.7 percent
- BA is a subset of BI – 43.3 percent
- They are separate concepts – 27.8 percent
Here are a few comments from the discussion in the LinkedIn Business Analytics group forum:
Sam K – I…noticed that the terms “business analytics” and “data analytics” are used interchangeably even though there is a difference . To me data analytics is the end to end process of collecting, storing, analyzing and reporting on data. Whereas, BA refers to only the processes of analyzing (including correlation) and reporting on the data (both structured and structured).
Oleg O – You got it right: from industry’s point of view, BI exists separately from BA as BI tools usually end where BA begins. However, I found that Davenport’s definition is appealing and more complete as BI needs to be treated in a broader sense and to include BA, especially when big data is coming.
Guillermo C – During the last decade, both industry experts and large software vendors started to merge two different activities that had only one thing in common: The use of Business Data.
Today the term Business Analytics (or simply Analytics) is the name of a new discipline resulting from the integration of Business Intelligence (BI) and Predictive Analytics (PA).
John A – Did this not used to be called operational research? We use this term but it also includes simulation and optimisation. So maybe the set is greater and BI and BA. BI, for us, is to do with reporting what has happened, BA we call data mining, but then we have simulation and optimisation as well.
Jon R – I think dictionary.com illustrates the difference in the best way. Intelligence – the faculty of understanding. Analytics – the science of logical analysis. In other words, BI is the “Understanding of the Business including Problems / Opportunities” where BA is the “Process of Identifying Business Problems / Opportunities.”
Ramanan A – As a newbie to this conversation, I think they are both related yet separate. From my perspective Analytics has to do with data and to understand its underlying patterns and deduce inferences where as BI can help us understand our past and present.
Biswajit N – In my understanding – BI is a subset of BA for the following: BI – Inception/evolve through BA & primary capabilities goes in Data Management/Retrieval (Such as OLAP/OLTP/ETL) & Results/output in a interpretable graphical format to multiple device to derive information from Historical/Transactional Data. BA has larger perspective/scope/application compare to BI by large every of piece data speaks.
Marc K – I strongly disagree that they should be interchangeable. They are – and should be treated as – different beasts altogether. So much confusion around terminology – I have yet to encounter a crisper, clearer description than the one James R. Evans gave in his article “Business Analytics: The Next Frontier for Decision Sciences”:
http://www.decisionsciences.org/DecisionLine/Vol43/43_2/dsi-dl43_2_feature.asp. Hope it’ll clear the confusion, once and for all..
Curtis P – @Marc, regardless what we logically want these words to mean, they have become interchangeable…The virulence of this interchangeability is evident even in the post you linked where ‘analytics’ and ‘BI’ are being used interchangeably. The newly renamed MS in Business Analytics program includes a mixed curricula of analytics and ‘traditional’ BI’. I note also that the author of the linked post, James Evans, references Timo Elliot who I also referenced above, who works for SAP (he was employee #8) and works in the belly of the beast so to speak of an organization that has rebranded the entire BI space as ‘analytics’, and even he is compelled to write a blog post urging people to ‘not care what it is called’. I suspect the reason is that as a public speaker, he probably gets lots of people coming up to him asking what to call it ‘analytics’ or ‘BI’ and he says ‘doesn’t matter what you call it just do it!’ All of that said, that is a very useful post. I am really taken by the categorization into descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics, especially the statement that ‘many applications involve all three.’ I also agree with and have observed myself, his statement that ‘research has also suggested that organizations are overwhelmed by data and struggle to understand how to use it to achieve business results, that most organizations simply don’t understand how to use analytics to improve their businesses. ‘
Gary S – IMHO, BI and BA are not interchangeable. And neither should be tied to any specific technology. Business Analysis (non-technical) is the analysis of business processes and soft (non-technical) systems. Business Analysis (technical) is the adoption and implementatoin of technology to business systems, whether OLTP or OLAP. BI is, by necessity, a technical field, for two reasons: to have a complete understanding of BI, one must have training in the Analytics (statistics, mathematical modeling) involved; and, because of the complexity of the effort, computers are indispensable. So, one must have both the academic training, and the technical aptitude to apply BI well. While they are related, they are not interchangeable, but complimentary.
Tom M – These terms are less meaningful than the results you can produce for your clients. That said, as clients narrow down their specific needs, it is useful to have agreed-upon category names and definitions to describe exactly what problem you’re solving. It appears that we, as an industry, have to do a whole lot better.
Dean A – The terms are not interchangeable. I think the easiest way to see this clearly is to see how those in BI define themselves compared to those in BA. Of course, BA is relatively new as a field, but has more in common with Predictive Analytics (PA) than BI. I find it useful to have these definitions more distinct so we can describe more precisely the kinds of tasks we are doing.
Guillermo C – I can visualize a Venn diagram where Business Intelligence and Advanced Analytics have an intersection area, where some activities belong to both disciplines while some are exclusive of BI and others of AA….BI looks at what happened, when and where it happened, who was involved, how and why it happened. Advanced Analytics is used to find out how and why it happened, how likely it’s to happen again and what should we do to either provoke or prevent that from happening in the future.
In addition to the discussion on LinkedIn, the following write-in responses were recorded on the poll:
- Both use data and statistical analysis, but BI output is what is happening whereas BA is why this happened.
- Business Analytics is about finding the things you don’t know. BI is about reporting on already known metrics.
- Business analytics is what you do…BI is what you get from doing BA.
Tap the 90 will continue to leave the poll open, to allow everyone to weigh in. To vote in the poll, please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VKXVDXP.
- Survey Results: Business Intelligence or Business Analytics (tapthe90.com)
- What Is It? Business Intelligence or Analytics? Both? (arnoldit.com)
- 5 Ways Business Intelligence and Analytics Enhance Business Performance [Survey] (blogs.sap.com)
- Is traditional BI enough for today’s real-time enterprise? (zdnet.com)