Business Intelligence

What's the Difference Between BI & Artificial Intelligence BA?


Article contribution (Dr. Samuel Cruz)

BI, It’s really about dashboarding, mainly; the CEO-President being provided a reporting display of critical information to make strategic decisions. It’s about not being flooded with complicated reporting by engineering or sales and the marketeers. A magical one-dashboard look. Mindtality will compose this for you. It’s neither about a perfect beautiful dashboard either. As long as you see all the critical data information in one look. “Get it!” says Dr Sam.     Hence, “I recommend the imperfect dashboard is the key! Improve along the way.   Get it and quickly use it!”

Historically, the BI  market has been served by vendors such as Business Objects and Cognos. But the competitive landscape is changing. Microsoft has now shrewdly entered the market by driving the placement of SQL servers into the space in order to broadly deploy and deliver its BI suite and reporting services in volume. Oracle has seen the effect of companies moving data out of the database to stage it for analysis. The resulting data warehouses have provided a degree of utility in housing, manipulating and delivering “strategic” information across the organization.

Recently though, established vendors such as SAP and Siebel have unveiled BI product suites under the banner of “analytics.” SAS, a perennial stalwart of the statistics market, is suddenly being touted as the number-three BI vendor and frequently positions itself as an analytics vendor.

The point is – Though commercial tools are more scalable and user friendly than they used to be, the core of BI is still reporting rather than process management, although that’s slowly beginning to change. And be careful not to confuse business intelligence with analytics.

Analytics finds its place within many functions (individual departments) and business processes it seems clear and “when you include this into the Mindtality custom-built imperfect dashboard you actual are creating what Dr. Sam calls the MUSCLED BI SYSTEM. Ha ha, imperfection is perfect , why? Because the point of BI is to use it immediately in order to make the best strategic decisions now!”.

We are the defining feature of next generation business intelligence. Particularly, a significant new group of business users—a group I like to call “Go-To Guys”—are in need of analytics tools to tackle daily problems and opportunities. Go-To Guys are the operating managers of company—product managers, sales managers, researchers, engineers and marketers.

So, what is analytics? Neil Raden of Hired Brains, a market research and management consulting firm, has said that, “the proper term for interacting with information at the speed of business, analyzing and discovering and following through with the appropriate action, is ‘analytics’.”

CIOs often assume that business analytics (BA) comes along with BI. The traditional BI market has been associated with providing executive dashboards and reporting to monitor the assumptions and key performance metrics that are part of long term planning cycles.

Everybody wants a dashboard. To the extent that all of us are CEO’s of our own business discipline, we want a simple measurement display of how we are doing and an alert mechanism of when something goes wrong. Additionally, dashboards address the growing urgency around Sarbanes Oxley. Monitoring planning assumptions and key performance metrics has now become mission critical from a regulatory and compliance standpoint.

psychological dashboard

Where BI Stops and BA Begins

So therefore, BI reporting ends with the dashboard, which is sufficient only for some business planning, and analytics picks up the rest for the Go-To Guys. Simply, this group must interact with data in a much different way from what traditional BI allows.

The Go-To Guys deal daily in unanticipated outcomes and unknown results and it is their job to mitigate risk and capitalize on opportunities. BI is not architected to iterate on new scenarios or for immediate response to unanticipated questions because it is set up to automate the distribution of standardized reports that monitor pre-determined key performance metrics and planning assumptions. BI’s answer to analytics has been to deliver the report to the business user and the business user typically takes the data in the report and dumps it into Microsoft Excel in order to do his own analysis.

Secondly, Excel is not an answer either. As soon as the data is dumped into Excel, the user is out of the BI system with no way back in. Any insight that the business user gains while interpreting Excel spreadsheets tends to stay with him—all opportunity for organizational learning or process improvement is lost.

So requirements for analytics are different than the requirements for BI.

What are the characteristics of an analytic savvy organization? First of all, even the planners want into the act. Analytics is enabling more proactive, high-frequency planning cycles. Planners are better able to refine and iterate the plan, shifting resources to higher performing areas with the goal of being first-to-market and never having a warehouse full of trendy goods once the trend is over. Secondly, the analytically savvy organization is more agile—able to adapt and respond—whether that’s to a competitor that releases a new product, a change to the pricing structure in the marketplace or the success of its own marketing campaign.

“Lastly” , Dr. Sam says, “BI is now for large organizations like WalMart, McDonalds, Wendy’s so forth, but no, we quickly can custom build your own BI dashboard and load it with insight delivering analytics  for any size firm and then in a weeks time ready for use. A sure fire way to survive and trounce the competition!  It’s not about whether you are big or small its about whether your business solutions provider knows their tools to a level where they can apply it  and meet your needs  – that’s us :  MINDTALITY!”