Monday, 15 October 2012

What is Business Analytics Really And Why Should I Care?

If you’ve been looking at the Business Intelligence (BI) market at any point in the last 12-18 months, the chances are that you’ve heard the term “Business Analytics” banded about more and more. Vendors such as SAP now use the term to categorise a broad kit bag of solutions including BI, GRC, EIM and DI (WT…? never fear, SAP acronyms explained!).

And as a vendor, they’re not alone as other big players are starting to follow suite, which can only mean more confusion for anyone going in to the market.  

But the term “Business Analytics” has been around for many years now, and has at times been hotly debated – Timo Elliot’s excellent blog met it head on last year. But to me it’s simply a means for business people can take a proactive, forward looking approach to decision making. Organisations can start to see and plan for how they will achieve their goals by getting more from their data, and being able to model that data to predict outcomes.

In recent years, Business Analytics technologies have really begun to mature, becoming more intuitive, highly visual and accessible to non-techy business users. Tools from the likes of SAP and others have seen rapid growth in the todays tight economy, driven by fierce competitive pressures and a relentless desire to reduce costs, identify new business opportunities, and detect inefficient business processes.

So how do they differ from traditional “Business Intelligence” tools? Haven’t we been using BI to do much of the above for years? We’ve certainly worked towards that, for example spotting an overstocked item was usually the job of a well written Crystal Report or spread sheet, highlighting in RED the expensive items that are tying up all that precious capital. But although the traditional report can answer business questions such as, what has happened? And when did it happen? It can’t tell you why, or show you what would happen if you changed something to ensure it won’t happen again. Knowing the answers to these questions goes beyond fixing an single issue that happened in the past, they can drive you forward to make real business performance improvements.

It’s that distinction that has led to Business Analytics tools to play an increasing role in putting information in the hands of decision makers, beyond the reliance on IT, so that they can explore and uncover opportunities and plan to resolve potential issues in near real-time.

Here’s a quick view of some of the types of questions you can answer with BA, beyond just looking in the reporting “rear view mirror”.

Foundation BI Tools
Analysis Type
Business questions answered
Standard Reports
What has happened, and when did it happen?

Ad-hoc reports
Has this happened before?
And what are the trends?

How do the results compare with the previous period? Where is the problem?

BA - Advanced and Predictive Analytics
Statistical Analysis

Why is it happening? What opportunities am I missing?
Sentiment Analysis

How do people view us?
What is their attitude towards us?
Planning and Forecasting

What are we going to do?
How will it trend?
How much do we need, and when?
Predictive Modelling

What will happen next time?
What is the impact on my business?

Every BI project should gain an understanding from the business users it aims to serve, of what questions will be asked, can be asked and should be asked to deliver real value to the business.

So when considering BI, BA should be a big part of any plan. Providing a complete story about the past, the present, and the potential future outcomes of the decisions you’ll make.

If you’d like to explore how this marriage of acronyms can benefit your organisation, do get in touch.

Written by Lee Grogan, Sales Manager, DSCallards
For more information, visit

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