In a great post last year, Timo Elliott commented on the debate around the question:
‘What is the difference between “Business Intelligence” and “Business Analytics”?’
And, his typically pithy answer was; “everyone has an opinion, but nobody knows, and you shouldn’t care”.
I would wholeheartedly agree, and in fact, I would go one step further and say, it is a daft, waste-of-time, irrelevant question.
Of course, we need labels which help guide us, after all I don’t want to go to a BI conference to find out it is about stamp collecting. But academic debates about the meaning and definition of anything other than the most general labels are pointless and damaging. Who cares if it is “intelligence” or “analytics” or whether it is a “datamart” or a “datawarehouse”, the real question is “will it help our business?”
The main reason that these questions are damaging (beyond the time wasted thinking about them) is that they act as a constraint on what is possible.
A good example of this is with dashboards. There are those who would argue that a dashboard should provide information at a glance and should not be used for interacting with data, with (IMO misguided) references to car dashboards to back this up.
This flies in the face of pretty much every real world “dashboard” I have ever seen, where the ability to navigate around the data to some extent is almost always a basic requirement. In fact, the more I think about it, the more “Interactive BI App” seems to better describe what people really want when they say they are looking for a dashboard. (I know, that feels like just another definition but hopefully is it general and descriptive enough not to add to the problem).
This has an interesting echo of the much talked about “consumerisation of IT”. The consumer world (particularly where mobile is concerned) has been transformed by “apps” in the past few years and I think that in BI we could do a lot worse than wonder how we could replicate some of this success in the business world.
So, next time you see a dashboard requirement, ask yourself how it might be delivered in the spirit of an iPad app:
Engaging, specific, no training required, valuable to the end-user – not a bad place to start !
If I were to make a BI prediction about 2012 it would be that this might be the year we see the rise of the BI App (and yes they will be available on mobile as well as the desktop).