What's the difference between BI and Analytics?

Jun 22, 2010

Perhaps there is no other industry with more buzzwords than the Business Intelligence (BI) "industry." As a result, there are frequently semantic arguments over what is meant by specific terminology employed by the tool vendors, industry analysts, and consulting firms in the business. The most recent semantic battle pits the term or phrase "BI" against the term "Analytics." With Analytics in our name, I thought it wise to weigh-in on this minor industry dust-up.

Ultimately I agree with Boris Evelson at Forrester, analytics is essentially a subset of business intelligence:

I think the effort of trying to differentiate analytics from BI is a vendor-invented hype, since many BI vendors are running out of ways to differentiate themselves – I also disagree with the "old BI = bad," "new analytics = good" premise that I see in many analysts' papers. You and I know that you can't build analytics (OLAP, advanced analytics, etc.) without basic ETL, DW, MDM, etc. So nothing's really changed as far as I am concerned: we are still fighting the same battles - silos, data quality, etc.

Fundamentally, BI refers to all methods that use data to help decision-makers and end-users gain a greater insight to their business and make better decisions. Advanced analytics (e.g. OLAP, Predictive Modeling, etc.) play a significant role in this capacity, but are only a part of the overall approach.