Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics: What the difference means to you
Business seemed so simple, once upon a time. There was a time when you gave someone a chicken for doing a job for you. Bartering did not require bookkeeping, compliance, or technology.
Businesses now offer seemingly infinite possibilities in exchange for as just as many problems. Today, business is complex enough to both drive a thousand forces while being pulled in a thousand other directions.
Trying to understand, solve, and make use of these issues are two different fields: Business Intelligence and Business Analytics. They differ in purpose and mindset, and each offers a career path worth considering.
What is Business Intelligence?
You might want to start with a definition of “Business Intelligence.” Writing for CIO, Mary K. Pratt identifies the key roles of leaders in Business Intelligence:
- Business intelligence (BI) leverages software and services to transform data into actionable intelligence that informs an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions.
- BI tools access and analyze data sets and present analytical findings in reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, charts, and maps to provide users with detailed intelligence about the state of the business.
The whole purpose of Business Intelligence is to enable and reinforce decision making. It takes BI to understand and value technologies and applications in use or available to the business. It seeks to optimize the collection, integration, and presentation of corporate information.
Executives once thought of BI as their playbook, briefing book, hot buttons, or other metaphor. The core value of BI is its ability to pull together all business information resources into a powerful advisory tool.
Making the most of BI depends on the technology tools and software solutions available. It can make the most of historical data, for example. It will find or create commonalities, redundancies, and underused tools in established systems.
But, it also seeks to upgrade the tools and introduce solutions that analyze and forecast. It will find information in the data mines created by a history of the business’s functional silos: financial, operations, human resources, sales and marketing, and more. In addition, using that data, it will present summaries, reports, real-time access, and visualizations.
Where Information Technology once referred to systems operation and performance, Business Intelligence makes it a content management service. Theoretically, Business Intelligence software solutions may reach a level where they are self-sustaining, but at this time, Business Intelligence is a human function needing talented support.
Are there careers in Business Intelligence?
A Master’s of Science degree in Business Intelligence opens many career paths to recipients. Some are listed here in alphabetical order with the understanding that large and complex organizations may have positions that are tiered into levels of accomplishment and responsibility. Some large business will have BI functions within their own silos, and other companies may use BI specialists on a contract basis.
Business Intelligence Architect: This senior information technology position develops new technology solutions to optimize business access and use of key decision-making information. Where possible, they will leverage current technologies and resources. However, they are expected to use engineering and planning principles and experience to anticipate future needs in terms of reliability, security, growth, and manageability. While mentors and trainers, BI Architects don’t typically manage staff.
They enjoy significant income packages at the largest companies. Payscale reports, “Business Intelligence Architects enjoy a hefty income, with average pay passing six figures ($108K) annually in the United States. Including potential for bonuses and profit sharing, peaking near $20K and $10K".
Business Intelligence Analyst: This entry-level position recruits graduates with bachelor’s degrees in business administration, computer engineering, or other related fields. They need skills in interpersonal communications and may benefit from prior experience in supervision because they will work in collaborative leadership roles across departmental functions.
BI Analysts must demonstrate exceptional proficiency in common office applications, ERP, CRM, HRIS, and other systems. Payscale reports, “For Business Intelligence Analysts, annual average wages total $66K per year. Including potential bonuses and profit sharing proceeds.” However, Glassdoor sets the average base wage at $79,613.
Business Intelligence Developer positions require proficiency in architecture, coding, debugging, testing, and solutions. Developers research existing and foreseeable needs for decision-making data.
Employers expect deep working knowledge of ETL frameworks, database management systems, OLAP (online analytical processing), Microsoft Power BI or Oracle BI, SQL queries, SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services), and SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services. The function usually falls between analyst and architect.
Payscale reports, BI Developers “pull down an average of $78K annually. Including potential for bonuses and profit sharing, peaking near $11K and $9K, respectively.”
Business Intelligence Manager is a manager who directs and monitors work of analysts. Therefore, the position requires interpersonal and supervisory practice and skills. BI Manager will train, develop, and assess employee performance as well as manage BI project assigned.
According to Payscale, “Business Intelligence Managers command the highest salaries in California; the three top-paying cities are San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.”
Glassdoor, the average annual base salary for BI Managers is $116,539 with corporations like Esurance, Symantec, and Bank of America offering considerably more.
What is Business Analytics?
Writing on Business Analytics at the Decision Making Institute (2012, March), James R. Evans, says, is "the use of data, information technology, statistical analysis, quantitative methods, and mathematical or computer-based models to help managers gain improved insight about their business operations and make better, fact-based decisions."
It covers all the data tools that measure a company’s performance. The idea is to spot strengths and weaknesses in business processes that affect the organization’s wellbeing. Business Analytics (BA) will mine existing data to identify, interpret, and integrate meaningful insights.
The field requires core skills in communication, critical-thinking, and problem-solving. BA positions will use statistical studies, documentation and research experience, and models to analyze, deconstruct, and re-engineer. And, it requires proficiency in programs, including .NET, Perl, SQL, VBScript, and more.
Specific industries may mandate compliance with Mil-SPECs, Six Sigma, Agile Business Analytics, and the like. Many of these skills are learned in specialized training outside of university opportunities.
Are there careers in Business Analytics?
Jobs in Business Analytics often morph into aligned jobs or specialized versions, like Market Research Analyst, Revenue Management Analyst, Managemtn Analyst, and the like. However, career paths include jobs such as:
Entry Level Business Analyst: offers advice to management on assessing and improving business effectiveness. The duties may consider hardware, software, and services at work to identify needs-to-improve. Analysts will follow strategic plans and communicate findings in clear and effective ways that may include a variety of presentation skills.
According to Payscale, “Pay for Entry-Level IT Business Analysts sits in the ballpark of $62K per year." However, this varies significantly in different industries and regional labor markets. Leading banks and tech companies offer higher salaries and benefit packages to entry-level analysts.
Business Analytics Manager: will coordinate and assess the performance of business data analysts. The manager will oversee the approaches and methods. It has responsibility for completing projects and presenting results to stakeholders for improved decision making and planning. It will require a related bachelor’s degree, Master’s of Science in Business Analytics, or MBA with a focus in business analytics.
Such positions pay well. Glassdoor lists the average annual base salary at $110,232. Businesses like Hewlett-Packard, Sprint, and LinkedIn offer considerably more.
Enterprise Business Analyst: has evolved into a central strategic function at global competitors. The EBA reports to the chief executive suite on the role of current and future business analytics. This strategist drives organizational change as a response to analyzed work and as a facilitator for solutions.
The position demands extraordinary skills in team and collaboration-building across business functions as well as among reporting Business Analysts and Business Analytics Managers. The IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) describes the work as “the integration and coordination of the set of business functions rather than addressing any single function within the enterprise.”
Businesses surveyed by Glassdoor reported an annual base salary of $70,710. However, businesses with global reach, tech, healthcare, and banking often layer these positions to include Junior and Senior designations which pay much more.
Skills development - business intelligence vs. business analytics
This an exciting time for people with the skills favored in business intelligence and business analytics. The excitement arises partly because the field and need are burgeoning and complex. They have not clearly defined themselves, and depending on the business organization and purpose, it will structure these positions differently.
For some, there is little difference in intelligence and analytic functions. Others are contributing to an understanding of new needs and directions. If you were to generalize, you might conclude:
- Analytics focuses on the organization’s data content.
- Intelligence focuses on the integration of the data systems.
Both are looking for meaningful information in the data, its structure, and its systems. The complexity of the organization and the volume of the data determine the position descriptions and challenges.
This is not a worrisome uncertainty. Rather, it is a promising evolution in tech positions with potential solutions vital to organizational decision-making and success.
What remains unclear is the career path to and from these positions. This, too, is fluid at this time. Employees in IT can grow into significant careers with exposure to and experience in work aligned with either field. They may have entered the enterprise with education in computer science or programming, but they find interest and reward in these new directions.
Education & training - business intelligence vs. business analytics
Bachelor’s of Science in Business Intelligence studies are multiplying. The curriculum might include courses in business programming, data mining and analysis, delivery systems, governance and ethics, organizational communication, strategic management, supply chain management, and more.
Bachelor’s of Science in Business Analytics may structure a curriculum around coursework in accounting principles, financial management, business management, marketing, problem-solving, networking, statistics, web systems, and more.
Some schools offer bachelor’s degrees in business administration with specialties in BI or BA. In either field, increasing developments drive continuing education. Therefore, many employees pursue graduate work to keep pace.
Master’s of Science in Business Intelligence programs will challenge students with course in advanced intelligence systems, customer relationship management, corporate performance management, data visualization, and data warehousing.
Master’s of Science in Business Analytics degrees put students through business simulations, data and text mining, descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive modeling, financial management, operations management, and visualizing analytics.
Many graduate schools do not differentiate the programs and award degrees in Business Intelligence and Analytics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not currently list specific positions in either field. The BLS links “intelligence” and “analyst” with functions like finance, marketing, and management. Additionally, you can take that as a sign of relative newness in the topics.
BI-survey.com notes, “Data quality/master data management, data discovery/visualization and self-service BI are the three topics BI practitioners identify as the most important trends in their work.”
Accenture reports, “While more than half (57 percent) of companies surveyed said they don’t have a beneficial, consistently updated enterprise-wide analytical capability, nearly three quarters (72 percent) said they are working to increase their company’s business analytics usage.”
Business Intelligence and Business Analytics will work individually and in collaboration to identify and resolve emerging enterprise challenges:
- Cyber-security lies in the content and management of big data. It will take intelligence and analysis to prevent and mitigate security attacks and breaches.
- Organizations increasingly depend on real-time reporting and visualization across locations, platforms, and systems.
- The evolution of the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) exceeds expectations and control. The volume of complex data creates risks and opportunities.
- Stakeholders demand more security, accessibility, and transparency to data that needs visualization in meaningful terms.
Predictive analytics has been largely reserved for marketing studies, but the methodologies have importance to financial management, IT, and R&D, among other organizational functions.
The nature of business and technology has shifted from accenting quantitative analytics to qualitative information. The paradigm shift will improve jobs, create them, and change them and the skills required. It’s a great opportunity to be involved.
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