Analytics versus intelligence

Washington, D.C. – Business intelligence is an over-used term that has had its day, and business analytics is now the differentiator that will allow customers to better forecast the future especially in this current economic climate, said SAS Institute Inc.’s senior vice-president and chief marketing officer.

“I don’t believe (business intelligence is) where the future is,” said Jim Davis. “The future is in business analytics.”

Classic business intelligence questions, said Davis, “support reactive decision-making that doesn’t work in this economy” because it can only provide historical information that can’t drive organizations forward. Business intelligence, he said, doesn’t make a difference to the top or bottom line, and is merely a productivity tool like e-mail.


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“SAS is bucking the trend because analytics has come of age,” said Davis.

The Cary, North Carolina-based business analytics software vendor held its annual SAS Global Forum, a user-run event, with 3,200 registered users.

At the event, SAS announced enhancements to its Business Analytics Framework including data integration, collaboration, data analytics, new algorithms, and what-if scenarios for forecasting.

Gaurav Verma, global marketing manager for business analytics with SAS, said customers have to deal with ever-diverse and complex business issues, and are demanding tools with a short return on investment that enable “proactive, predictive, and fact-based decision-making.”

Using the word “framework” and not “platform,” said Davis, reflects the fact that the latter implies two to three years of implementation and an over-shot budget, a scenario that organizations must avoid. But a framework “implies an iterative approach” that renders a faster return on investment.

“The reality is, the framework becomes the platform over time,” said Davis, referring to a company’s ability to leverage existing investments.

Other announcements at the event include a new SAS Fraud Framework geared towards banks, insurance companies, and government entities, to help improve the monitoring of customer behaviour across user accounts and systems. It includes the SAS Social Network Analysis tool that analyzes all related activities and relationships within a network, like shared address, telephone number, employment and account ownership.

SAS also released a software-as-a-service offering for its Campaign Management software to more cost-effectively run marketing campaigns given tight customer budgets.

SAS customer Stub Hub Inc., a San Francisco-based online sports and theatre ticket marketplace, uses business analytics to gauge the response to random, non-seasonal events and “bake” that into forecasting models. Ming Teng, director of analytics with Stub Hub, said the company is a small shop with a plethora of data it must manage, the challenge being to deploy efficient processes so its analysts have access to relevant data.

According to Gareth Doherty, research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., while it is a fair diagnosis that most business intelligence systems focus only on manipulating historical data, “part of SAS’s new marketing campaign is to reclaim the word ‘analytics’ and push for what they call business analytics, and to distinguish it from traditional BI.”

That said, Doherty thinks companies could definitely benefit from the forecasting that business analytics afford, but cautions that such tools “are by no means a crystal ball.” The issue is that companies without the expertise in statistical training would be incapable of fully leveraging the technology, he said.

The future of business certainly lies in the direction that SAS is heading, said Doherty, and that “if organizations aren’t moving in that direction, they should certainly be thinking about it.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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