What is the difference between business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA)?

Business intelligence typically focuses on describing current and past processes and results; business analytics describes future processes and results.

While both terms are fluid, especially as business intelligence (BI) tools add advanced analytics features, business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA) have distinct areas of focus, different end users, and different applications. 


Both BI and BA collect, mine, transform, and analyze vast amounts of data, applying the results to improve performance.  BI, however  is concerned with descriptive analytics primarily, describing current and recent business processes and results.  Using current KPIs and short-term goals, BI is often used to tweak performance, identify and remove process obstacles, and generally manage the day-to-day business.


Business analytics (BA) includes predictive analytics, determining possible future processes and results. Using a longer-term view, BA allows the business to determine the likelihood of future results based on data analysis. Moreover, BA includes prescriptive analytics, identifying actions that should be taken in order to achieve a future outcome.


BI is typically used by managers as a tool to quickly view a key set of KPIs and identify any problems needing corrective action.  BA is more likely the domain of data scientists who are able to perform complex analytics and interpretations beyond the capacity of a BI platform.


Learn more about Business Analytics and Business Intelligence here.