Rick Delgado feels blessed to have had a successful career in the tech industry and has recently taken a step back to pursue his passion of writing. He's started doing freelance writing where he occasionally works with tech companies like Dell Computers. He enjoys writing about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.
The business world is no stranger to buzzwords and industry jargon. It takes genuine skill to parse through the fluff to find the meat behind it all. But there are times when words and phrases that sound like buzzwords actually carry deeper meaning. Two in particular have been placed in the spotlight in recent years: business intelligence and business analytics. Most companies talk about them to some degree, but pinning down exactly what the two phrases mean is a formidable challenge. Some even contend that both business intelligence and business analytics are simply different phrases for the same thing.
On the surface it certainly seems that way. A quick look at Google search trends shows that while the phrase “business intelligence” has seen a noticeable decline in the past decade, at the same time “business analytics” is on a steady upswing. Is it a case of business analytics simply replacing business intelligence in this new age of big data, or do the differences between the two truly separate them from each other?
Part of the problem in defining what the two terms mean is that there is no settled definition on either one. Go from expert to expert and you’ll quickly find that two rarely share an opinion on just what business intelligence and business analytics actually mean. Accurately parsing the differences between the two makes the situation even more muddled. Despite these difficulties, perusing expert opinions does reflect the industry-wide thought process that surrounds the two phrases.
Some experts agree with the premise that business intelligence and business analytics are mostly the same, with the main difference being that business intelligence is a broad term meant to describe using available data to make short- and long-term business decisions. In this case, business analytics is only a smaller aspect of the broader strategy, a step along the Business Intelligence Maturity Model. As noted by Business Intelligence Consultant Chris Schrader, business analytics includes most of the parts of business intelligence only without the part that deals with making business decisions based off of the data.
This is an opinion that’s not necessarily shared by others in the industry. Some have shown what they believe to be stark differences in what business analytics and business intelligence are. As expected, those opinions don’t always match up, but they do show a general consensus that the two terms, while similar, have enough distinctions to be separate entities. One of the more prevailing opinions deals with what the end goal for each term is. As Mark Van Rijmenam, the founder of Datafloq, puts it, business intelligence focuses mostly on the past, looking at things that have already happened to improve operations and make important business decisions now. Business analytics, on the other hand, looks to the future to find certain trends and patterns that will help businesses prepare for what’s to come. By anticipating future trends, companies will be ready to change with the times, responding to new demands and transforming the business based off of what the data is showing.
Another major difference between business intelligence and business analytics is the types of people who use each of them. As can be surmised by the descriptions, business users and those not as familiar with big data are most likely to employ business intelligence when making strategic decisions. Business analytics is most likely to be used by data scientists, IT workers, and business analysts. That’s in part because business analytics uses more complex tools and techniques like data mining and predictive modeling, whereas business intelligence focuses more on KPIs, scorecards, and metrics.
Though it may seem like mere semantics, understanding how most organizations view business analytics and business intelligence can help other companies in creating their own strategies and methods. Both terms can use big data analytics, though their goals may end up diverging. So returning to the original question, are business intelligence and business analytics one and the same? Not really. Opinions may differ, and the gap between them will largely depend on who you ask, but there are distinct differences that should be noted and reflected in every organization.