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Business Intelligence and Analytics: Is there a Difference?

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.

April 17, 2024
5 min read

You may have heard the terms Business Intelligence and Business Analytics used interchangeably and wondered whether they actually are one in the same, or if there are substantive differences between them.

In this article, we’ll take a look at business intelligence and analytics, explaining the scope of BI and BA, doing some analytics of our own to detail where they differ, and finally looking at their practical uses in today’s fast-paced, internet-of-things economy. 

What Is Business Intelligence?

The term business intelligence (BI) is used to describe a broad infrastructure of activities centered around the vast amounts of data collected by today’s interconnected businesses. Why is BI, which is sometimes called Big Data, such a big deal? Because of the role it plays in helping businesses make varying decisions in a much more well-informed manner and enabling leaders to navigate organizational and industry-wide challenges and maintain their focus. Much more than a nice-to-have enhancement, the significance of BI and the advantages that its analytical tools can deliver make it a must-have for entrepreneurs who want to succeed in today’s highly competitive business landscape.

With improved BI, organizations can enhance customer experiences, track their performance, identify market trends, streamline operations, mitigate risk, set goals and benchmarks and improve almost every aspect of their business. Using an array of business intelligence tools that include spreadsheets, online analytics, reporting software, business activity monitoring software and data mining software, leaders can collect and house data to inform decision making in areas like business operations, workflow, supply chain management, goal achievement and sales forecasting.

What Is Business Analytics?

Business analytics (BA) is another collective term that refers to the processes by which all the raw data collected and stored by a business from its various operations – sourcing, manufacturing, operations, sales, customer service and others – is turned into useful information. Businesses use this information to identify trends and predict outcomes, which can give them a competitive advantage. Using an array of data analytics such as statistical analysis, quantitative analysis, data mining and others, business leaders can identify trends and understand information that can drive change while supporting sustainable business practices.

Common methodologies within BA include:

  • Forecasting

    Historical data is analyzed to estimate future activities and outcomes. 

  • Aggregation

    This is the process of gathering data and organizing it prior to its analysis.

  • Data mining

    This familiar term describes the process of sorting large amounts of data to identify patterns and trends.

  • Data visualization

    Data analysis is made more understandable and user-friendly through this process, which represents data in the form of tables, charts or graphs.

  • Predictive modeling

    In predictive analytics, patterns are identified and future trends estimated through this process of information extraction. 

Business Intelligence vs. Analytics

As we answer the “what is business intelligence and analytics” question, we also need to sort out the difference between business intelligence and business analytics. It can be difficult to make a distinction between the two because there is so much overlap in how and where the terms are used, and so much fluidity in how the terminology in the discipline is understood.

A survey of leading experts in the field reveals varying definitions of business intelligence and analytics, underscoring this fluidity. One CEO defined business intelligence as descriptive, looking back and using historical data to make decisions, and business analytics as being predictive, looking forward to see what is going to happen and allowing you to anticipate what’s coming.

The chief information officer at another business analytics solutions provider sees analytics as simply a function, or subset, of BI. He notes that BI platforms are using increasingly sophisticated tools to perform different types of analyses, like the methodologies described in the previous section, and package them in useful reports and dashboards. Some BI platforms can provide information in the form of apps that have ushered in a new trend of “self-service analytics” that allow business users to perform their own analyses and provide the tools they need to get their own answers about their data.  

Lastly, a VP of engineering at a BI software company took a more philosophical approach, saying that while BI is needed to run the business, business analytics are needed to change the business. He weighed in further by saying that BI creates operational efficiency through access to real-time data and analysis of historical data from multiple sources, allowing better-informed decision making and problem solving. 

Practical Use

No matter how you may choose to define BI and its analytical sidekick BA, they have practical uses across many industries and applications. Consumer services, banking, manufacturing and healthcare are examples of industries where massive amounts of data are collected, and modern reporting and analytical capabilities are allowing leaders in these fields to make decisions affecting their operations and growth. 

  • Healthcare

    Business intelligence and analytics are being used in various healthcare settings to streamline the management of electronic health records, billing and insurance, and to develop revenue-boosting strategies.

  • Banking and finance

    BI and analytics enable financial institutions to obtain real-time financial and operational data in their financial planning and analysis. Reporting and analyses allow them to manage cash flow and financial risks, and create budgets based on previous spending and revenue.

  • Retailing

    The ability to uncover buying trends is crucial in retailing and other consumer services, where consumer analytics can enable a range of smarter decision making to understand what’s trending and plan more effective consumer outreach. 

  • Supply chain and manufacturing

    Data analysis can be used to streamline manufacturing by making smart decisions in how orders, suppliers, payments and delivery schedules are managed, and improving procurement, inventory and warehouse management. Market insights and more accurate supply forecasting can boost efficiencies in production planning.

Business intelligence applications enable companies to collect consumer data, monitor website performance and gather information about site visitors, and keep track of contacts and leads in a well-organized fashion. Among the applications widely used in this space are Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, Yandex Metrica and Insightly CRM Pro.

Explore New Career Opportunities in BI with a Keller MBA

If you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree and are looking for a way to advance your education – and career—DeVry and our Keller Graduate School of Management can help. Our online MBA with a Specialization in Business Intelligence and Analytics Management can help you prepare to pursue roles in BI as you develop the skills to effectively manage big data and solve multidimensional business problems. Our knowledgeable faculty will help you gain real-world experience as you construct analyses using the same tech platforms and tools businesses use to forecast trends and drive better decision making.

A Keller MBA in business intelligence can help you stand out as a candidate for new roles where employers have specified a master’s degree as a requirement, or to move up to a management-level role in your current organization.

At DeVry and Keller, you can choose the schedule that fits best with your goals and commitments. With qualifying Prior Learning Credit,* you can accelerate your degree program, earning your master’s degree in just 1 year and 4 months. Or, following a normal schedule, complete the program in 2 years and 8 months.** Classes start soon!

*Accelerated time to complete requires at least 9 credit hours of Prior Learning Credit, assumes completion of 3 semesters per year, enrollment in an average of 10 credit hours per semester and continuous, full-time year-round enrollment with no break. See Keller Academic Catalog for complete details. 

**Normal schedule includes breaks and assumes 2 semesters of enrollment in 6 credit hours per semester per 12 month period. 

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