big data vs. business intelligence

Big data and business intelligence (BI) are two of the most common buzzwords used in the technology sector. Both concepts offer businesses the opportunity to delve deeper and perform more-detailed analysis of the information they have collected, and although they have comparable overlaps when used in industry, they are different and offer organisations two unique ways to handle their data streams.

What is big data?

The term big data refers to the collection of large datasets that are so complex that traditional analysis software is unable to decipher the information. Usually encompassing all of the data streams owned by a business, whether they are structured or unstructured, big data does not only indicate the size of data but also references the value and insight that a company can extract following the analytical process.

In a business environment, only 10% of the data collected is structured in a well-organized fashion. The data model implemented by a business will determine the amount of complete information collected. This model will begin analysis on the incoming data streams, identify specific information according to predesigned factors, and siphon this data away from the remaining information into a storage silo.

It’s more common that data collected by a business will be in an unstructured format due to the number of data streams available to a company. As many organisations cannot develop or construct data models for every flow, it can often hinder the analysis process; although lots of the data will be useful, many datasets are text heavy and therefore the analysis needs to be more detailed.

The amount of data on offer for a business to analyse will always continue to grow, and in today’s digital age you will be hard-pressed to find a company that creates zero data. An estimated 2.2 million terabytes of data are generated each day, and all of this falls under the category of big data. With such an overwhelming quantity now available, perhaps it’s time your business began to utilise its power.

Your data needs to undergo strategic analysis to ensure it is fit for purpose. You first need to ask yourself: ‘what business problem am I trying to solve?’ If you have a data management strategy in place, you’re already one step ahead of the game. However, it may be that the data offers up new questions throughout the analysis process. Patterns can emerge from data, prompting questions you weren’t aware that you required the answers to.

Almost every process in a business scenario now generates some form of data. Whether it’s a social media interaction or a customer ordering a new product, only after this analysis process will your business have the necessary facts to identify market trends, which should help to improve business performance and efficiency. However, you should be aware that there isn’t just a straightforward type of analysis.

Analysis Type  What can it do for your business? 
Basic analysis This type of analysis will allow for your to distinguish different data type, produce basic reports and simple visualisations.
Advanced Analysis This will allow your business to use predictive modeling techniques.
Operational Analysis These analytics will ultimately become part of your business process.
Table These type of analytics are used to identify and drive revenue.

What is business intelligence?

Operating a business requires constant improvement. As a business owner or board member, it’s your job to look at how you can serve customers better in your chosen sector and keep an edge over your competition. BI will give you that added boost as it combines all of the tools and software used to transform the data you have collected as a business into something more meaningful.

The use of business intelligence in business

In business, the utilisation of big data calls for the analysis of new data coming into a company. By comparison, business intelligence often requires a business to look back over historical data it has stored in a silo and pull them into one single database, which is formatted and clear to aid effective decision making. When using BI techniques, it’s not always about making an instantaneous decision; it’s often about having the actionable evidence to do so. So what can business intelligence do for your business?

Allow you to make informed decisions:

Every decision made by a business is data-driven and requires evidence to support it. Whether the data you need is newly analysed or pulled through into a BI dashboard, every piece will help to speed up the decision making process.

Give a single view of your customers:

When implementing a business intelligence dashboard, the aim is for business members to have access to the data they need in one particular place. Having full optimisation of this information from your CRM, email campaigns, website tracking, as well as other tools, allows the right members of your business to monitor a complete customer journey from the initial search through to purchase, and adapt future campaigns so they suit that customer’s needs.

Improve marketing intelligence:

Successfully identifying the customers who provide the best ROI to your business is one element that can set you above your competitors. Of course, one customer who spends a considerable amount will have a quicker return financially. But by using business intelligence software, your business can identify which customers regularly return to your site, their buying patterns, and the technology can also detect and remove bottlenecks, so the supply and demand chain does not become overloaded.

Build your brand:

Influencing customers, whether that is online or instore, is an integral part of becoming a top industry brand, and the complex nature of how to become successful can often hang on the decisions made by the marketing team and higher-ups in a business.  Having the consolidated data on hand in a smooth-running platform will allow specific business members to build a company brand efficiently, and if an issue arises in conjunction with the brand, it will also enable them to react faster when critical decisions emerge.

Big data or BI: which is right for you?

Big data and business intelligence offer the chance for your company to delve deeper into you collect. Below we’ve picked out the top facts on each process to help you select the right technology for your business.

Big data Business intelligence
Big data is collected from a number of different sources. Business intelligence utilises data from one specific source.
The data is normally unstructured and requires strategic analysis before use. The data is well-structured and can be used immediately.
The data will prompt a business to ask the questions you weren’t aware needed answering. Business intelligence gives you the capability to make informed decisions.
Big data can identify market trends. BI will provide a single view of your customers.
The processes aligned with big data can improve business performance and efficiency. BI software can improve marketing intelligence processes.

Are big data and business intelligence the same thing?

No – but they do go hand in hand. Implementing both big data and business intelligence practices and principles into a business will involve finding the right data streams in your organisation and using them to your advantage. Once your company has identified the correct data, they should, in theory, make BI in your business better, as it will provide up-to-date, newly-analysed data to make predictions and address business concerns.

big data and business intelligence how they come together

If your business takes the view that there are overlapping similarities between the two concepts, you’re not alone. oMelhorTrato CEO Cristian Rennella believes that both can be used to solve parts of the same problem in a business. “We use big data to unify all the company information that comes from different devices (online and offline) as well as from different suppliers and customers around the world,” says Cristian.

Following that process, they implement business intelligence to allow the business to understand customer behaviour. “It helps us see the entire customer journey to learn what’s working, what’s not, and also who’s accessing it across many devices; mobile, desktop, tablet, etc. This process allowed us to quickly identify roadblocks and it helped us improve our onboarding funnel, and was made possible with automatic BI insightful behaviour reports, issued on a weekly basis to find meaningful insights.”

The key difference between big data and business intelligence

Although there is crossover between big data and business intelligence, there are clear differences between the two practices that you need to be aware of if you’re looking to implement either one or both into your business.

The most significant difference is that business intelligence works mostly with structured data whereas as big data can work with all forms of data. Nate Masterson, the marketing manager of Maple Holistic, believes that business intelligence works better with specific forms of data collected in a more sterile environment (such as specifically focusing on the data of say, a single warehouse or retail outlet).

“Alternatively,” he says, “big data can deal with a variety of different forms of data from a variety of different sources, such as monitoring huge amounts of social networking data regarding trends and activity as well as online activity across a variety of different platforms.”

Partnering this practice is the difference in what the data can be used to identify. When using big data, businesses will introduce predictive analysis techniques to uncover new patterns and correlations within data that provide the answers instantaneously. Business intelligence, however, requires further analysis and visualisation processes to be applied to the data before it can be used to make effective decisions about business operations and performance.

This distinction also highlights another significant disparity between the two technologies. BI is a single system and, although it may be easier to manage, it will contain a broad set of analytical specifications and the data used will come from a warehouse, where it has been cleaned and consolidated. Big data, on the other hand, combines a complex set of software and designed algorithms that can be applied immediately to untapped data, something a warehouse cannot cope with. This offers a business real-time update analysis, rather than that of historical data.

Taking the analytics process one step further and offering further divergence between the two concepts is the type and amount of questions your business will be able to ask following data collection. If you’re looking for well-designed, well-thought-out answers to problems, using business intelligence software is the right move for your company. In comparison, big data asks the questions you weren’t aware your business needed to ask, which could lead to more-successful business growth, as you can tackle more arising issues at a faster pace.

Does my business need both?

In a business environment, both big data and business intelligence can efficiently work in conjunction with one another to improve company performance, as they can both bring different offerings to the table. But it’s also worth noting that they can both have a positive impact when used as a standalone practice.

A concern for businesses looking to implement business intelligence software is that they don’t have enough data to make use of it. It is not an issue any company should feel they have, as if you look at the number of data streams owned by your business, you will have a lot of data. What we tend to find is that businesses are either yet to decipher it or do not have the team in place to do it.

In business, even the smallest amount of data can be processed through business intelligence software for it to be effective. Nick Petroski, the managing partner of Lumodash, believes that both concepts should be used together to improve a company: “Big data and business intelligence give firms a complete understanding of the ecosystem they operate. As companies embrace BI and big data, they’ll need to expand their BI toolsets and reporting capabilities to accommodate the new large datasets.”

When implemented correctly, both big data and business intelligence have a place in your professional environment. Both solutions will add clear value, drive efficiencies in your teams and, more importantly, demonstrate a clear ROI to any decision-makers in your business.

How do you use big data or business intelligence in your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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