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What is the difference between the terms "business intelligence" and "data warehousing?"

  • Larissa Moss, Chuck Kelley, Clay Rehm, Scott Howard, Adrienne Tannenbaum
  • August 22 2003, 1:00am EDT


What is the difference between the terms "business intelligence" and "data warehousing?" People seem to be using these terms on an interchangeable basis.


Larissa Moss’ Answer: Business intelligence refers to the capability of providing a 360° view of the business. Majid Abai from Seena Technologies calls it "information plumbing" and "a platform that enables decision-makers within an enterprise to have the latest competitive internal and external information at their finger tips in a clean, consistent and easy- to-use manner." My own definition of business intelligence is very similar: a framework of cross-organizational disciplines and an enterprise architecture for the construction and management of an integrated pool of operational as well as decision support applications and databases that provides the business community easy access to their business data and allows them to make accurate business decisions. One vehicle to deliver business intelligence is data warehousing; another vehicle is CRM and so on. In other words, data warehousing is a subcomponent of and a vehicle for delivering business intelligence.

Adrienne Tannenbaum’s Answer: Business intelligence refers to the use of existing data/information/knowledge within an enterprise. In general, most data is currently diverse and sporadically integrated (such as with a single data warehouse). In a BI framework, all of this is looked at as part of a bigger whole and becomes available via one search. Documentation, business rules, search criteria and existing reports are examples of things that are accessible from one place, typically via organized and related search terms.

Scott Howard’s Answer: Business intelligence refers to systems and technologies that provide the business with the means for decision-makers to extract personalized meaningful information about their business and industry, not typically available from internal systems alone. This includes advanced decision support tools and back-room systems and databases to support those tools. The data warehouse is that back-room database. Combine that with the support tools required to build and maintain the data warehouse, such as data cleansing and extract, transform and load tools and you have what many call data warehousing.

Think of the data warehouse as the back office and business intelligence as the entire business including the back office. The business needs the back office on which to function, but the back office without a business to support, makes no sense.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: My 30,000-foot level answer – I think that you build a data warehouse to put a tool on top of it to do business intelligence. So data warehousing is the foundation that business intelligence is built upon.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: People were performing data warehousing (DW) before it had a name. The term "data warehousing" stemmed from the terms "decision support" and "management reporting" many years ago. Business intelligence (BI) sought to encapsulate more processes that included data warehousing. If you notice, many vendors use the term BI to describe their services; to show that they provide more services than just data warehousing.

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