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Business analytics and intelligence: What’s the difference?

Business professional talk about analytics

At a glance

  • Business analytics and intelligence both play a pivotal role in business but aren’t the same thing.
  • Business analytics refers to extracting knowledge from data sets.
  • Business intelligence refers to the process of basing strategic decision-making on collected data.
  • Enhance your business knowledge with an online Bachelor of Science in Business with a Business Analytics Certificate from University of Phoenix.

Business analytics vs. business intelligence

Both business analytics and business intelligence are important for an organization’s success. However, these two concepts aren’t the same thing.

Business analytics is the process of extracting meaningful insights and knowledge from data sets. By contrast, business intelligence refers to making predictive decisions based on the collected data.

Whether an individual incorporates both business intelligence and analytics in daily operations or strictly sticks to one or the other, understanding each concept can help improve business outcomes. An online business degree can help professionals learn these and other necessary skills for a business career.

What is business analytics?

Business analytics is the process of gathering, categorizing and reporting data to teach a company’s top decision-makers more about how their company operates.

Many of the best companies today understand how valuable their data can be because of the results they produce. To achieve growth, these organizations depend on data analytics — statistical modeling, algorithms and other quantitative methods that provide insights.  

To gain the educational foundation to help pursue a career in business analytics, students may opt for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field. University of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in Business with a Business Analytics Certificate. This program provides courses that familiarize students with data analytics skills like data visualization, data security, data ethics and information systems.

What does a business analyst do?

Business analysts fulfill a wide variety of responsibilities for their employers. For example, these professionals collect data, develop algorithms that detect and correct inaccurate records data, and communicate with stakeholders about gathered insights from data analysis.

Other typical responsibilities of a business analyst may include:

  • Interpreting trends found across data (also known as data mining)
  • Preparing and presenting reports for executive leadership
  • Documenting data collection and analysis processes for team members
  • Creating business analysis and strategy road maps
  • Analyzing data models to gauge efficiency

Some business analysts are even responsible for teaching data collection and analysis to other employees.

Whether educating others, interpreting data or sharing data-driven patterns with executives, business analysts play an important role in almost every modern business’s success.

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Two business professionals discuss analytics

What is a business analyst?

When is business analytics used?

Business analytics is used whenever an organization wants to draw informative conclusions from the data it gathers. Businesses in markets like healthcare, information technology, education, hospitality and sales routinely use business analytics to achieve more efficient operations.

Business analytics can certainly provide short-term insights from a particular data set, but it’s even better for long-term planning and problem-solving. For example, an online business might use analytics to identify the products customers most often buy or bundle. An academic institution might similarly trust analytics to track student success after enrollment.

Business analysis is a specialized skill that can take time to master. Many aspiring analysts work to shorten that learning curve and improve their candidacy for hire by pursuing analysis-specific education. For example, students might pursue one of several data analytics courses that teach skills in fields like data communication and data modeling. 

What is business intelligence?

Once organizations dedicate time and resources toward data analysis, they work to leverage the data trends into conclusions that drive growth. Business intelligence (BI) often separates market leaders from passive companies. The right approach to business intelligence can help organizations modernize operations and separate themselves from market competition.

BI represents more of a comprehensive take on a company’s collected data. Analysts who implement BI strategies analyze historical and current data to forecast company operations. BI also involves analyzing how one organization’s data compares to trends across the industry.

What does a business intelligence analyst do?

Business intelligence analysts analyze macro-level data trends to help companies identify patterns useful in driving growth. In addition, many analysts contribute directly to an organization’s financial health through industrywide reports that update company performance relative to the market.

A BI analyst may handle the following responsibilities:

  • Compiling refined or unrefined data from a variety of sources
  • Summarizing economic data through user-friendly dashboards or reports
  • Maintaining relevant knowledge of industry competition
  • Analyzing business processes for new data-gathering opportunities
  • Implementing more efficient data-collection procedures

These responsibilities assist in making BI analysts an important contributor to a successful organization.

When is business intelligence used?

Companies harness business intelligence when they’re looking to draw valuable, actionable conclusions from the data they collect.

While analytics helps organizations gather data, BI is much better suited for high-leverage situations, such as decision-making and crises.

Business intelligence is often the preferred solution when companies need to drive improved online engagement, streamline shipping methods, improve the consumer life cycle, control surge pricing or even simplify an ocean of spreadsheets.

For example, e-commerce companies with declining web traffic must be able to identify trends in their data that can help the organization achieve increased sales. Similarly, mortgage companies can significantly accelerate the loan-approval process by making the data they collect more accessible for lenders.

Applications of business analytics and intelligence

Analytics and business intelligence help companies improve their performance. For example, a shipping technology company consolidated its many tracking spreadsheets into a single system. This new system gave the company greater oversight of its projects and saved time that would have been spent on manual data entry.

In 2018, a prominent ride-share company experienced the advantages of using business analytics for greater insight into the data it collects through its Customer Obsession Ticket Assistant (COTA). COTA relied on machine learning and natural language processing to generate quicker responses to customer-generated help tickets. As a result, COTA saved the company time while improving customer service.

Business intelligence solutions and software

BI analysts (and any other employees involved in the business intelligence process) depend on a few different programs. These software platforms can help improve efficiency and significantly reduce errors associated with manual data entry.

Here are what a few of the most popular tools used by business intelligence do:

  • A data application platform that synthesizes data streams into presentable dashboards.
  • Platforms that focus on streamlined data visualization, helping teams create workflow with collected data.
  • Programs that offer BI analysts an entire suite of data-first tools. Analysts can leverage these programs to improve user autonomy and reduce the time necessary to create reports.
  • Other programs aim to handle every stage of the data collection, analysis and reporting workflow. BI analysts can build dashboards without much code and automate data collection from web applications, internal networks and point-of-sale systems.

Many of these programs rely heavily on artificial intelligence to collect, detect and correct inaccurate data and then present it. As a result, they greatly assist BI experts in developing more effective business strategies, increasing revenue, decreasing costs and more.

Types of business analytics software

A business analyst may use any of the following types of software:

  • Platforms that use artificial intelligence to highlight insights from data sets.
  • Platforms rooted in data mining and data pipelining best practices. Analysts can leverage to interact with the data they collect, even providing feedback through the platform to other data scientists who might be analyzing the same information.
  • Software to speed up internal processes through data visualization, performance metrics and security.
  • Hybrid platforms that handle both BI and analytics tasks to highlight data insights and identify new data streams for analysis.

These and other software programs help analysts streamline data entry and gathering so they can spend more time analyzing and learning from the data sets they collect.

Earn a degree in business analytics from University of Phoenix

If learning about these software platforms interests you, then a career in business analytics may be a good fit. University of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in Business with a Business Analytics Certificate that can help build skills and knowledge applicants need to prepare for a career in business.

From collecting data to strategizing business decisions, business analysts and intelligence professionals play important roles in today’s business landscape. And for many of them, the first step in either career is a business degree.

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