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Just how thin is the line between business intelligence and business analytics applications?


(Director of Product Marketing) |

Business intelligence usually means the technology and tools used to build stuff. IT teams usually buy BI technology. Business analytics applications usually means that analytics dashboards and reports are already built into applications. A main benefit is that you don’t have to assemble the technology, process, and people to build analytics from scratch. Line of business teams, like the finance department, usually buy business analytics applications.

Topic Expert
Jeff Chase
Title: Advisory CFO
Company: Hazelcast, Juicebox Energy, and Social I..
(Advisory CFO, Hazelcast, Juicebox Energy, and Social Inertia ) |

Thanks for the question – if you take a look at information from various sites of Wiki and pundits in this area, you’ll find a few differing schools of thought. One set of folks feel the distinction is only a matter of semantics; the lines are blurred and that both BI and BA meet (or should meet) the same need. (BA being just a newer term that is somewhat replacing BI…)

Another set of folks argue that BA is used for the development of new insights and understanding of performance, while BI is more about the consistent measurement of past performance (for us finance folks, when we hear "BI", we automatically picture a Titanic size provider with large row/columnar data warehouses, fed and kept happy by earnest IT professionals).

BA is thus about the “Will it occur again? What happens if we change X?, and, What else does the data show us?", where BI is focused on the “When did it happen?, Who?, and How many?”.

A third way to consider it is that BA is somewhat at the top layers of the BI stack, and that various players in this market, participate in the BI stack to varying levels. Some play only at the dashboard level, some at the reporting level, some at the full BI level (from structured or unstructured data warehouse up to powerful front end visualization tools).

All "BI vendors" will move toward providing "BA"; even if the apparent distinction is only somewhat clever marketing. If you did a keyword trend analysis on this, you would see the growing popularity of BA.

The future will be a matter of determining which vendors (Called BI, BA, Digital Analytics or otherwise) can provide the most useful answers and insights from the growing data flood that is hitting everyone. Analytics of all kinds will become more and more critical to business success, and we can expect to see new ways to solve the data problem, such as using nimble SaaS applications to connect both online and offline data. If you want to read more about my thoughts on analytics, check out the white paper on Proformative I just wrote titled "CFO In the Age of Digital Analytics."


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