Beyond the Basics: Diving into BI and Analytics

Rado Kotorov's picture
 By | January 21, 2015
in WebFOCUS, Advanced Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence
January 21, 2015

Going beyond the surface of Business Intelligence and Analytics.
Photo attributed to Craig Nagy.

To clear the air around the business intelligence (BI) versus business analytics (BA) debate, BI Software Insight recently spoke with seven leaders from the field, including myself. While each professional had a different take on the differences between BI and BA, most agreed on the thin line that divides the two terms.

Business intelligence refers to the data captured from what has already occurred within the organization and in the market. BI platforms allow users to access data, manage metadata, and report on that data, whether in applications, dashboards, or through distribution and publishing channels.

Business analytics, however, goes beyond capturing and reporting information. BA requires the use of different types of analysis – i.e., descriptive, predictive, regression, neural networks – to create models and predictions based on captured data. It is with these models and predictions that business leaders can understand the best course of action for their organization.

These definitions provide a simplistic and broad view of the field, but don’t let them fool you. BI and BA are complex operations with a variety of tools available. That’s why it’s important for organizations to understand the process of transforming big data into predictive analytics. Below is a brief explanation of the biggest challenges and opportunities our clients often face when starting their transition.

Data Integration
One of the first steps organizations take in adopting BI and BA tools is to develop a master data set from which all future analysis is derived. This is a key step and often the most daunting as information comes in various forms (e.g., sound, images, text) and from numerous disparate sources. Information Builders’ iWay Integration Solution helps organizations to maximize their data by capturing, cleansing and integrating data from more than 300 information sources.  By connecting and cleansing the data first, the organization is set-up for successful analysis based on the most accurate and complete picture of past and current operations. Missing this key step results in organizations creating analysis based on half of the picture, which often times results in missing key facts and trends.

Data Discovery
One common mistake organizations make in self-service analytics is handing off complex analytics tools to untrained users. I’ve written in the past about the disadvantages of data discovery so I’ll only touch on this briefly. Analytic tools require a lot of training to detect fallacies. There are many statistical traps like the Simpson paradox that can be misleading.

Analysis from highly-trained users, however, can be packaged in reports and dashboards, or easy to use InfoApps. Information Builders’ InfoApps uses embedded analysis to put the power of information in the end-users’ hands while hiding the complex analysis on the back end. InfoApps’ easy-to-use experience enables operational users to quickly and efficiently do their job from virtually anywhere.  Plus, the app-like functionality is familiar to most users so they feel comfortable using the tool from day one.  

Deriving the Right Information with the Right Tools
When delving into BI and BA it is difficult to know what tools you need to start. For example, WebFOCUS, Information Builders’ comprehensive BI platform, can be applied to everything from financial to sales to HR reporting. The platform also offers predictive business analytics, data visualization, and integration with mobile BI tools, enabling in-field employees access to real time data. Sounds like everything you need, right? It depends on your organization. There are a myriad of complex tools to perform different types of analytics - InfoAssist (for descriptive analytics), InfoDiscovery (for visual patterns discovery), RStat (for predictive modeling and data mining). Additionally, there are specialized solutions available for the healthcare environment. 

So where do you start? With an expert. The insights provided by an expert team will help you understand all of your organization’s data sore spots and opportunities. Businesses must have both BI and BA capabilities to stay ahead of the curve and drive real growth in their business. A good team will help you to maximize your data and take your organization to the next level.

You can also start with a Daytime Demo to see live product demos on how to prepare data for analytics, how to get data remediation right, and how to do responsive design in WebFOCUS. A February schedule is available -- sign up here.