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Business Intelligence or Business Analytics?


Syndicated from ebizQ

At the SAS Global Forum this week some SAS speakers drew a distinction between Business Intelligence – BI – and Business Analytics. This distinction between Business Intelligence (what everyone else does) and Business Analytics (what SAS does) struck me as a distinction without a difference, as a friend of mine used to say.

As SAS talked about its business analytics framework it became clear that they envision the results of data mining and predictive analytics (where they genuinely have offerings superior to almost everyone) will be delivered in reports or dashboards. This is what I have somewhat dismissively called “predictive reporting” and while it is better than purely historical reporting, it does not do much to make every decision analytically based as it leaves out the decisions made by machines (which don’t read reports) and those made by people with too little time to read a report (most call center or retail staff, for instance) or no skill at interpreting it.

I guess I just don’t see the difference between BI and BA…


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  • Tony Rose March 25, 2009, 5:39 am

    JT – I agree with you.  I think SAS is just trying to differentiate themselves from everyone else by calling it something different.  I actually like the description – Business Analytics verses Business Intelligence, which I think is getting to be outdated.   A few years back, I noticed just about anything having to do with data, reporting or analysis fell under the umbrella of Business Intelligence.  Now, I think there is more emphasis on narrowing down the scope and defining what exactly is BI or Business Analytics.

  • Seth Grimes March 25, 2009, 5:47 am

    James, spot on, it’s “a distinction without a difference.”

    SAS has long danced around this question as a matter of market positioning.  A few years ago, the products were “beyond BI.”  Then SAS became a BI company.  Now it’s not?

  • Greg H. March 25, 2009, 7:00 am

    What a great sign about the power of Twitter – I was lucky enough to find this post via one of the people I follow there. 

    In my younger years, I was rather obsessed with accounting, specifically accounting systems.  One of my more interesting projects involved taking information out of complex financial systems, breaking it down into an ‘easy to use’ metric, and sharing it amongst front line employees.  Our company’s costs were way out of control, and someone felt that ‘opening up the books’ was the best way to deal with that.  The problem we ran into was one of training – it took a significant amount of knowledge to figure out what the metrics meant, and then it took even more training to convince the line employees that this wasn’t a big fancy corporate initiative to justify laying people off.  Our experiment with ‘open book accounting’ failed…

    Over a decade later and I am in a completely different line of work.  Reading this post brought back some old memories about how difficult it was to get employee buy-in.  It seems to me like Business Analytics (whatever that is) will run into the same problems that our foray into opening up the books did.  All the analysis in the world, beautiful metrics, and nice signs will not accomplish anything if they are not greeted with employee buy-in.  Tough economic times are often met with a strong resistance to change…

    Odd, isn’t it?

    Thank you for writing this post – it has inspired me!!!!!