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Colin White

I like the various blogs associated with my many hobbies and even those to do with work. I find them very useful and I was excited when the Business Intelligence Network invited me to write my very own blog. At last I now have somewhere to park all the various tidbits that I know are useful, but I am not sure what to do with. I am interested in a wide range of information technologies and so you might find my thoughts will bounce around a bit. I hope these thoughts will provoke some interesting discussions.

About the author >

Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Colin's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

Several times over the past few weeks discussions about the relationship between business analytics and business intelligence has led to some interesting conclusions. Three specific occasions spring to mind – when judging the 2008 SIIA CODiE Awards for Business Intelligence, while working with Judy Davis on a BI Network research report on embedded analytics, and at a recent SAS analyst conference.

During interviews, business users always seem comfortable with the term business analytics, but often view BI as a vague and imprecise technical term. Some vendors and IT folks also seem to prefer business analytics to BI. In the area of operational BI, for example, new solutions are appearing on the market that employ embedded or stream analytics. These solutions often use data from sources other than a data warehouse. The vendor concern here is that BI and data warehousing are often seen as being tightly linked and one cannot occur without the other. The term operational analytics is sometimes preferred because it is viewed as being more dynamic than operational BI.

At last week’s SAS conference, CEO Jim Goodnight commented that business intelligence has been watered down by competitors such as Business Objects and Cognos, whose query and reporting tools couldn’t approach the sophistication of the advanced analytics produced by SAS products.

What do you think? Has the term business intelligence become so abused that it is now confusing and meaningless?

Posted February 29, 2008 1:39 PM
Permalink | 3 Comments |


I've been doing data mining for years, and I feel your pain. I usually use 'analytics' to describe adding insight to numbers and producing something beyond reporting.


While reading your blog a saying came to mind: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The last few years many terms are introduced. Mainly because specialists like to think they add something new. It's true, to BI specialist they do add something, but to most people not.

To make a term stick, I think the term must the term must be self explanatory and widely usable. So being been watered down only adds to popularity of a term.

In short, I don't think the term BI will go away because it is a understandable term for the average Joe and you can use for lots of different purposes.

The BI term is dead... I've been battling confusion stemming from the term at my organization for > 2 years and still the term comes back to haunt me. I prefer to name specific functionality whenever possible instead of broad terms. When I do have to broadly speak of olap, mining, etc I say analytics only because the term causes a bit less confusion.

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