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Analytics In – Business Intelligence Out?

We recently conducted a survey of business users, IT executives and BI teams on their use of business data. We posed the following question to all business users: “Different terms are used to describe the analysis of business information to support better decision making and improve business results.  Which of these terms do you use? (Select all that apply)”

The results were interesting: 87% selected the term “analytics,” 80% selected “reporting,” and only 47% of respondents chose the term “business intelligence.” Given that we generally define business intelligence as the process (and technology) of analyzing business information to support better decision making and improve business results, it’s interesting to see that so few business users view the term the same way.

Business Analytics vs. Business Intelligence?

Noted business analytics writer, Timo Elliot, examined the issue in his blog post “Business Analytics vs. Business Intelligence“in which he states “everybody has an opinion [on the difference between the two terms], but nobody knows, and you shouldn’t care.”  In one sense he’s right; the difference could be a matter of semantics.

But as I look at the question posed in our survey, two thoughts occurred to me.  First, while it’s hard to know if the selection of “analytics” is due to the phrasing of the question it’s interesting that the term analytics is starting to become synonymous with the processes usually associated with business intelligence.  Second, the term “business intelligence” ranking so low is important for business intelligence teams, as it suggests that there’s a disconnect for business executives between the technology and its application. We’ve found, in companies that are highly successful with business intelligence, that BI teams are tightly integrated with their business counterparts in the development, implementation, and measurement of BI projects, and that those projects are tightly aligned with core business processes.

Reporting only Scratches the Surface of BI

What also struck me about the response to this question was the frequency with which “reporting” was selected. True, reporting is a style of BI, but it’s not a particularly sophisticated style when compared to things like advanced analytics and predictive analytics. If respondents are looking at traditional “reporting” as being representative of the value of business intelligence, it’s no wonder so many companies have failed to realize significant ROI on the BI investment.

Getting More from Business Intelligence

This year, business intelligence is the top priorities for CIOs, according to researchers at Gartner. Given the responses we’ve seen in our survey, though, one has to wonder if it’s similarly a top priority for business users. In order for organizations to get more from their BI investments, it’s crucial that business users and BI teams work to get on the same page in how the technology is implemented, used, and measured.

Next time, I’ll examine the second significant finding from our report: business users don’t know what they don’t have.

If you want a copy of the full report, you can access it here.

By Adrian Alleyne, Director of Market Research

© Decisionpath Consulting, 2012


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