Enterprise Business Intelligence

business-intelligence-vs-business-analytics-bannerWhat’s the difference between Business Analytics and Business Intelligence? The correct answer is: everybody has an opinion, but nobody knows, and you shouldn’t care.

Having worked in the industry over twenty years, I can confidently say that everybody has a different notion of what ANY particular term associated with analytics means.

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, and 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.

At the end of the day, there are two things worth differentiating:

  1. The first is the business aspect of BI — the need to get the most value out of information. This need hasn’t really changed in over fifty years (although the increasing complexity of the world economy means it’s ever harder to deliver). And the majority of real issues that stop us from getting value out of information (information culture, politics, lack of analytic competence, etc.) haven’t changed in decades either.

The problems in nomenclature typically arise because “business intelligence” is commonly used to refer both of these, according to the context, thus confusing the heck out of everyone.

In particular, as the IT infrastructure inevitably changes over time, analysts and vendors (especially new entrants) become uncomfortable with what increasingly strikes them as a “dated” term, and want to change it for a newer term that they think will differentiate their coverage/products (when I joined the industry, it was called “decision support systems” – which I still think is a better term in many ways).

When people introduce a new term, they inevitably (and deliberately, cynically?) dismiss the old one as “just technology driven” and “backward looking”, while the new term is “business oriented” and “actionable”.

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