BI vs. Analytics: Understanding the Role of Each in Making Informed Decisions (Part 1)


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Information impacting business operations is diverse, complex and growing at staggering rates. Due to unrelenting competition, changing markets, and accelerating rates of adoption for new technology, there is a tremendous strain on IT and business infrastructures. Accessibility to actionable knowledge continually sparks the debate between business intelligence and analytics, questioning the roles each of them play in making informed decisions.

In the past, organizations have struggled to find people willing to sift through mountains of data in order to properly analyze the information needed to make smart decisions. BI made this process easier by introducing analytics as part of the company’s strategic decision making process. Unfortunately, many companies striving to run their entire organization based on BI alone have fallen short for a number of reasons:

  1. The same people who were sifting through all of the data are now trying to manage the surplus of data required to create an all-encompassing warehouse;
  2. BI infrastructure and design are faced with a dilemma: as soon as they are completed, they are out of date due to the massive proliferation of data in the business ecosystem. It is almost impossible for organizations to keep up with the veritable explosion of data from new sources;
  3. The needs of an organization are constantly shifting. In order to respond to these changes, it is necessary (but virtually impossible) to anticipate today what will happen tomorrow.

My guess is that this debate of BI and analytics has been in progress since the inception and branding of BI as a standalone discipline for organizations. BI, as I see it, is a complete end-to-end platform consisting of tools, processes and business models that allow for the retrieval of relevant information in the best format for your business. At this level, analytics is a key part of the BI process. It’s about the predictability of the business – to the extent in which you can predict it – based on potential variances of business norms. The question of what data is being retrieved becomes static in the bigger picture.

One of the biggest questions I hear raised in the debate of BI vs. analytics is: “How dynamic must the access/navigation of information be to really make analytics representative of true business intelligence?” I believe the answer lies in leveraging Enterprise Search 2.0 platforms as a driving source for business intelligence and analytics, and I will explore this idea further in my next blog post.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ed Shepherdson
Ed Shepherdson serves as Coveo's Senior Vice President of Enterprise Solutions. He brings 30 years of experience in the technology industry to this role. Prior to joining Coveo, he spent 18 years at Cognos, now an IBM company, where he most recently served as Vice President of Global Customer Support.


  1. Business does not live by analytics alone; neither by BI. While the fundamental challenge is still informed decision making based on the data available, the deeper challenges still lie in the establishment and courteous maintenance of business relationships both internal and external.

    Business growth is an imperative, but should never be the primary imperative. Even though markets seem to move faster than data can be processed, the decisions are not made by data sharing servers. The people involved, both internal and external, still appreciate reliable, factual, and well organized information presented to them in ‘easy-glean’ fashion by persons as well as reports. As in all relationships, mutual understanding leads to better decisions; not just hearing the same thing, but understanding it the same way.

    Comprehension of data must be easy for all involved. Data that cannot be understood cannot be used effectively, discussed, or used to make informed decisions. Determining the useability of data is just as important as its validity, i.e. it may be true and good data, but that doesn’t make it useful.

    Knowledgeable support personnel are still the best asset in galvanizing internal and external confidence. Success demands agreements and long-term faith in those agreements. Reliance on specific methods exclusively takes the creative business mind out of the game. Intuition and creativity are still key in gaining advantages.


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