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Opinion BI vs. Analytics

  • June 08 2010, 5:38am EDT

I know many of you already know my position on this, but I thought I'd get it out in the open and challenge all of you with a controversial discussion. In my definition – and believe it, I am fighting and defending it every day – analytics has always been, and will always be part of BI. What many of the vendors and analysts describe as "the new age of analytics," I built at Citibank in the early 80s and then built in about 50+ enterprises in 90’s at PwC. I think the effort of trying to differentiate analytics from BI is a vendor invented hype, since many BI vendors are running out of ways to differentiate themselves (and incorrectly so, see the next paragraph, and many other next gen BI trends). I also disagree with the “old BI = bad,” “new analytics = good” premise that I see in many analysts papers. You and I know that you can’t build analytics (OLAP, advanced analytics, etc) without basic ETL, data warehousing, MDM, etc. So nothing’s really changed as far as I am concerned: we are still fighting the same battles – silos, data quality, etc.

Besides, while this was indeed a differentiation a few years ago, today most of the top BI vendors do have OLAP and advanced analytics (see my upcoming 2010 BI Wave sometime in July) functionality, so it's really a commodity now. Instead, I prefer to write about REALLY new and game changing trends like self service,  agile BI, BI SaaS, in-memory analytics and many more. This is truly where vendors differentiate themselves and, much more importantly, what makes a true difference for the users of BI.  Another potential game changing trend that I see is that rather than fruitlessly trying align business and IT for BI, I say: let IT handle data prep and then let end users do their own BI and analytics.

Bottom line: there are plenty of real and actually useful BI trends and next gen technologies and approaches out there. Let's concentrate on them.

Boris also blogs at

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