From 'BI' to 'Business Analytics,' It's All Fluff - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/29/2009
11:11 PM
Neil Raden
Neil Raden
Commentary
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From 'BI' to 'Business Analytics,' It's All Fluff

I was there in Washington, D.C., last week at the SAS Global Executive Forum when Jim Davis gave his much-talked-about, business-intelligence-is-dead, business-analytics-is-the-future presentation. "I don't believe (business intelligence is) where the future is; the future is in business analytics," he said. I thought at the time that it was a little silly.

A lot of bloggers are writing about SAS' newly launched marketing campaign called "business analytics," which positions business intelligence as a subservient tool. I was there in Washington, D.C., last week at the SAS Global Executive Forum when Jim Davis gave his much-talked-about, business-intelligence-is-dead, business-analytics-is-the-future presentation. "I don't believe (business intelligence is) where the future is; the future is in business analytics," he said. I thought at the time that it was a little silly.SAS as a company makes most of its money on its classic product that is almost completely complementary to BI. SAS has vastly expanded its product line over the years to include all sorts of BI tools such as performance management, OLAP, visualization and data integration, but judging by the attendees I met there, most of them are involved with the flagship product that crunches datasets, performs statistical, stochastic, data mining and predictive modeling.

My guess is that SAS wanted to craft a message that rained on the BI vendors that lack the experience and loyal customer base in analytics. After all, analytics is the word du jour thanks to Tom Davenport's "Competing on Analytics," but I wonder if people who toss around this word even read his book. Tom didn't paint a picture of legions of happy workers using analytical software to do their jobs. Instead, he sketched a picture of a cadre of extreme quants working closely with only the most senior executives of the organization. This is a very different picture than the one Davis painted for business analytics, which really didn't look much different from what's been talked about as "pervasive BI."

Bottom line, it's all fluff. I don't like the term business analytics; it doesn't tell me anything. Frankly, I think business intelligence as a term is downright laughable, too. What does that mean? Is integrating data intelligence? Is generating reports intelligence? Maybe it's informing, but isn't intelligence something you HAVE not something you do? Does doing what we call BI lead to intelligence, or just some information? A long time ago we called this decision support, and that gets my vote. And by the way, conspicuously absent from Davis' framework (he said "platform" implies huge, lengthy projects, framework captures the spirit of what they are proposing) was any mention of decisions -- where they are, how they are made, and how this "framework" leads to making better ones.I was there in Washington, D.C., last week at the SAS Global Executive Forum when Jim Davis gave his much-talked-about, business-intelligence-is-dead, business-analytics-is-the-future presentation. "I don't believe (business intelligence is) where the future is; the future is in business analytics," he said. I thought at the time that it was a little silly.

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