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Business Analysis Vs Business Intelligence: Differences Between BA & BI

While business intelligence (BI) involves thoroughly examining past, present, and historic operations and collecting data, business analysis (BA) is about using the data to identify the current challenges, predicting future hardships, and gearing business towards better productivity and a more stable future.  

With the emergence of Big Data and predictive analytics, BI and BA have undergone major changes that have made them incredibly crucial as data management tools. While BI’s focus is monitoring data to make way for more effective insights, BA depends upon the correct interpretation and implementation of acquired data to make way for leaner and a more functional way of operations, making BA more futuristic.  

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Major Differences Between Business Analysis and Business Intelligence

1. BA is a more expressive indicator than BI

Since business analysis relies on several aspects to illustrate data, to demonstrate growth or slowdown statistics, it is more descriptive in nature and a little broader in genre than business intelligence.  BA monitors data from the past and present to derive insights about current operations and fathom customer needs and priorities, it does not just report back what it has found.

There’s a lot of scrutiny and review involved; so some crucial, timely and accurate foresight can be made; these analyzed conclusions need to be implemented so operations can be streamlined and enterprises can gear towards more functionality.

Whereas business intelligence works very differently, because it is a lot more technicality-driven, since it needs to process structured and unstructured data. To put it simply, business intelligence answers the ‘what’ and helps business analysis to interpret the answers for ‘why, when and how’. Read more about benefits and applications of business analytics.

2. Business analysis is a lot more far-sighted

Since business intelligence essentially relies on collection of data, it is usually focused on bringing about immediate productive development, while BA is a constant process. Business analysts are constantly analyzing data acquired by business intelligence units to figure out the best options for better operations in future.

Business intelligence uses data mining, reporting, analytical processing to create more effective business strategies, which in a way affects business analysis, in a direct way; but then again, without BA there would be no way of forming effective strategies. BA is also a lot more planned and aimed at re-programming future operations to make the enterprise leaner and to help it generate more profits.

A lot of BI’s focus is geared towards practical implementation and effective translation of acquired information and actually using it to get a better perspective. While the analysts work with a system which is meant to secure the future and to help understand the oncoming challenges, which makes business analysis very future-driven.

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3. BI has limitations, which BA often does not

Since business intelligence is so heavily reliant on data, it faces challenges when it has to deal with semi-structured or unstructured data. Unstructured data is the kind of data that does not fit into a significant or pre-planned data model and consists of a lot of irrelevant information. Semi-structured data is the type of data that does not abide by the standard mould that’s easier to translate, which makes it a hurdle for business intelligence.

Which is why business intelligence has its share of limitations, when it comes to dealing with raw data. When it comes to assessi ng unstructured data, there’s often no standardised tool involved which makes accessing and translating semi or unstructured data possible. This is not something business analysts have to directly deal with, since their work relies on their own calculations and their own strategy-building tools and subjective problem solving skills, they essentially clear paths for business intelligence to be implemented.

Business intelligence produces information about the data but cannot create or even convert data into insight, because that’s an analyst’s job. BI and BA’s behaviour with data defines a core difference between these two business tools. To understand more, read What does business analyst do?

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4. BA is more crucial to decision-making than BI

Large-scale corporations depend almost entirely upon their skilled team of analysts who can predict an oncoming challenge or a market fluctuation or even a drop in stocks. It is essential to understand that an analyst is accessing all his information with the help of business intelligence, but translating this intelligence into a useful resource is only possible with analytics, because business analysis studies growth patterns, economic shifts and also studies the market keenly which equips it to make an informed decision depending upon the history of the enterprise, its current functionality and also its prioritisations.

Predictive analytics, especially, can actually direct you towards some very convincing behavioral patterns which can act as crucial insight as to what’s the best way out for your company. So, when it comes to forming major decisions, the analytical perspective is most crucial because it doesn’t just tell you about an enterprise’s current state but can also see ahead.

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5. Difference in technologies / tools

Since business analysis and business intelligence differ so much in core format, it’s not surprising that they depend on very different sets of tools. For instance, besides Big Data, business intelligence can make use of technologies like MicroStrategy which basically brings you some very effective, high-speed dashboarding which can help you monitor current trending developments and even fathom more avenues for advanced productivity.

Then there are certain web-based analytical tools which actually aid in business intelligence because  they deliver real-time reports, let users connect and brainstorm and even work with top-notch visualizations to make your job easier.

Whereas, in business analysis, the business tools have to be a lot-more wide-ranging and technologically sound. Like prototype and wireframe producing tools, task management tools which also help you keep a real-time tab on all your new finds, real-time work management tools, rapid wireframing tools etc. Read more on business analysis tools.

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6. It’s essential for BA to learn from the past

A crucial aspect of business analytics is investigating the previous fiscal patterns or market shift or corporate behaviour which helps analysts come to an insightful conclusion about available and actionable options. 

Business intelligence may benefit from a sound knowledge of the past industry patterns, but since it’s most important job is collecting data, and actually mining through as much fresh data as it finds, it does not have to study the past developments, it only has to factor in the numbers.

But business analysis involves a more diverse process, since it has to take into account all the factors, the past, the present and also the potential future (also determined by BA). It’s a constant study of past business performances, which actually helps a company gauge it’s newer set of policies and guides them towards a more effective mode of productivity. 

7. BI can run the business but BA can change the business

Experts unanimously agree that business intelligence is the data that helps companies stay on top of things, be it their own performance or about the competition. But business analytics can effectively make or break a business and actually bring about much-needed changes in the business model.

It is important to note that both BI and BA are data management solutions and eventually have to work with data. But analytics involves a lot more than that because it engages human intelligence and individual perspective to arrive at conclusions about the next plan of action. Also BI does not create information, it has to do with data that already exists; whereas business analysis has to do with viewpoints and foresight, and that can be very subjective. 

Also read: Difference between Business Analyst vs Data Scientist

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How they are Similar?

Business analysis and business intelligence share a common goal: to improve an organization’s performance through data-driven decision-making. As a business analyst, I delve into understanding the business needs, processes, and challenges, identifying areas for improvement or innovation. Similarly, I focus on analyzing historical data in business intelligence to glean insights, forecast trends, and guide strategic decisions. Both roles require a keen analytical mind, an understanding of data, and the ability to translate complex information into actionable insights. By bridging the gap between data and decision-making, business analysis and business intelligence work hand in hand to propel businesses forward, making them indispensable in the modern corporate landscape.

What Should You Choose Between business analysis and business intelligence?

If you’re a mid-career professional who wants to improve your data-driven decision-making skills, you’ll need to choose between business analysis and business intelligence. In my experience, business analysis focuses on understanding and improving organizational processes, identifying needs, and proposing solutions. This means you’ll be the link between business requirements and technological solutions. It’s important to keep your language simple and use everyday words to explain your ideas. You should also keep your sentences short and direct, and use active voice to make it easy to follow. Remember to organize your information logically so that the most important information comes first.

Business analysis and business intelligence are distinct fields that complement each other. Business analysis looks to improve business processes, while business intelligence uses data to predict future outcomes. Consider your strengths and interests, and choose the field that aligns with them. Both offer opportunities for growth and development.   

Conclusion

Business intelligence involves the collection and examination of data, whereas business analysis involves identifying business requirements and developing solutions through the application of predictive analytics.  

Business intelligence and business analysis are two important roles in shaping a business’s future, but they differ in focus. Business intelligence uses data to forecast future challenges, while business analysis optimizes current operations. Understanding this distinction is crucial for mid-career professionals looking to align their skills and aspirations with the dynamic landscape of business strategy and data-driven decision-making. 

If you are curious to learn about business analysis, data science, check out IIIT-B & upGrad’s PG Diploma in Data Science which is created for working professionals and offers 10+ case studies & projects, practical hands-on workshops, mentorship with industry experts, 1-on-1 with industry mentors, 400+ hours of learning and job assistance with top firms.

What is the most significant difference between business analytics and business intelligence?

The most significant difference between business analytics and business intelligence is that BA analyzes only past data from driving the current business needs. In contrast, BI analyzes the past as well as the present data for driving the current business needs.

Business Intelligence is useful for running current business operations, and Business Analytics is useful for improving productivity and changing business operations for better results. BI is usually applied in all large-scale companies that focus on running current business operations. On the other hand, BA is applied to companies that are more concerned about the company's future growth.

Does business intelligence require coding?

Business Intelligence (BI) expects an individual to possess certain programming skills. It is necessary for processing data and producing useful insights for any business in certain BI project lifecycle stages like warehousing and data modeling. Other than that, coding is not required in any other stages. Only a bit of practice with programming can help you to begin your career in BI.

BI analysts are expected to possess knowledge of coding in SQL, R, and Python in the data warehousing and modeling stages. If you are aware of the working of these programming languages, then you will find it pretty easy to adhere to the roles of BI.

Which languages are useful for business intelligence?

If you are stepping into the field of business intelligence, then you need to be aware of the SQL coding language of databases. BI professionals write SQL queries to analyze and extract data from the available database and develop visualizations.

Other than that, BI professionals also need to be well-versed with the two most common statistical languages: Python, for general programming and R, for statistical analysis. It is not vital to learn these programming languages, but if you have them, you will be in a beneficial position while analyzing large datasets.

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