Is Business Analytics Replacing Business Intelligence?

What’s in a name? Or should I ask, “What’s in an acronym?”. We all know and love “BI” or “Business Intelligence”. But have you noticed the movement from the major vendors in the industry shift to the use of “Business Analytics” rather than “Business Intelligence”?

I believe that business analytics is meant to imply more than business intelligence, but beyond that functional distinction, I think that the marketers are having more fun with “analytics” as a concept.

The recent Gartner BI Summit 2012 held in London had a category name change. Gartner now calls the category “Business Analytics” rather than the previous “Business Intelligence and Performance Management”.

Here’s a video from 2 of the speakers talking about how the interest in business intelligence is stronger than ever. They discuss the rising use of the term “business analytics”.

Other take-aways from the show:

  • Mobile presentation of business analytics dashboards is now a “must-have”.
  • “In-memory” data warehousing strategies are getting “hot”.
  • Interest in Business Intelligence is greater than ever.
  • It’s all about the ability to make business decisions.
  • Business Intelligence Competency Centers (BICC) are being renamed Business Analytics Teams (BAT)
  • Business Analytics is about innovation and prediction.

Business Analytics Commercial from IBM

I just attended a project kickoff meeting where one of the project sponsors used this video as part of his presentation to stress the goal of increased profitability through using business intelligence to find trends for use in forecasting demand. As you’ll see, the commercial (or promo, as I should call it, as I don’t know if this was a television ad or some other type of paid advertising) uses a bakery as a mini case study to show that mining the sales data can reveal hidden patterns in the customer purchases. It turns out that Europeans eat more cake on rainy days!

Microsoft Business Intelligence with SharePoint

Good video on how Microsoft Business Intelligence works. BI solution architect Clint Carr discusses the technology and approach behind Microsoft BI.

He start off with the concept that data does NOT equal information. Rather, data plus context gives you the necessary information to make a business decision.

Keeping in mind the goal to improve productivity through better decision making, he keeps in mind the total cost of ownership and other advantages of using Microsoft SharePoint (a very common argument).

Here’s the video:

Getting Acquainted with a Data Set

The other day my team was just kicking off a new business intelligence dashboard project and the client’s data modeler and DBA led us through a through of the data landscape. We were knee deep in entity relationship diagrams, data dictionaries and all kinds of data “stuff” that made my eyes glaze over.

I subsequently discovered Stephen Few’s fabulous article entitled “Exploratory Vistas: Ways to Become Acquainted with a Data Set for the First Time” and I thought to myself, “OMG, I should have kicked off the meeting with a joint review of Stephen’s approach to getting to know the data!”.

Here is the link to the pdf: Stephen Few: Exploratory Vistas

The intro:

When you lay eyes on an unfamiliar territory for the first time, it always makes sense to get an overview before venturing into the thick of it. An unfamiliar data set is like an unknown land. Unless you have unlimited time to wander (who does?) and don’t mind getting lost, it helps to study a map before starting out. If no map exists, then you should head for high ground to get the lay of the land.

Analytical journeys are quite different from vacationing in Italy or France. Leisure travel involves a series of destinations with the hope of enjoying ourselves along the way. We want to add sweet memories to our lives of the great meals, beautiful sites, and interesting people we meet along the way. When we embark on an analytical journey, however, we don’t pre-plan all our destinations and we’re not just collecting memories. The goal of the analytical journey is a thorough understanding of the territory, often to solve specific problems. We approach the journey as if we’re preparing to become tour guides, able to explain each site in a way that ranges from its history to predictions about its future. We must learn to navigate like a native.

I really like the part about using treemaps. Here’s a look at a Panopticon treemap:

Be sure to check his pdf for more!

The Dashboard Spy

Make the Logo Bigger

I just HAD to share this again. Recently, a client literally asked me to “Make my logo bigger”. I almost cracked up when he gave me the change request. Watch this video and you’ll see why.

How many times have you had to do something for a client or project sponsor that you KNEW was stupid? Well, this video will help you to “grin and bear it”. Yes, as a consultant, my job is to prevent the client from making the wrong decision, but sometimes you just can’t fight it.


Identifying Fonts

Sometimes during the design of dashboards and other business intelligence systems we find ourselves puzzling over what a certain type font is. Perhaps a client gives us an existing logo or graphic and we need to update something in it. Our preference is always to preserve the look and feel if possible and so we try and locate the exact font that was used.

I wanted to share in this post the “What the Font” resource that has become famous for helping people figure out exactly what the font is going on. It’s available at this url:

Be sure to take a look at the hints about how to format the image for best results.

Hope you graphic artists working on enterprise software projects find this helpful!

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

Mobile Health Infographic

Thanks goes to Dashboard Spy reader Thérèse for alerting me to this interesting infographic on the booming mobile health field. The concept of mobile health revolves around using the now ubiquitous mobile toolset (cell phones, tablets, and other such devices) to transmit health related information such as blood pressure, blood sugar and similar vital signs to health providers for remote monitoring.

Here is the infographic:

Mobile Health Trends Infographic

Infographic on Mobile Health Trends

Here is the post that Thérèse pointed me to. BTW, Thérèse is a Project Manager in Healthcare IT, and can be found on LinkedIn at

Data Visualization Student Challenge

I just came across this data visualization contest held by the U.S. Department of Transportation. I missed the whole thing. Did any of you hear about this? The idea was very interesting. Too bad it didn’t receive more publicity.

Check it out at:

It’s worth visiting the site and looking at the finalists and winners.

Here’s a quick snapshot of a couple of the entries.

Our business intelligence dashboard tax dollars at work!

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

Free Chart Icons for Your Business Dashboard

Dashboard designers and anyone who is mocking up business intelligence dashboards should avail themselves of the many free chart and graph icons that exist. Take a look at this screenshot and I think you’ll agree that these icons would work well for business intelligence applications.

You can download these icons and more at this link:

Use this as a jumping off point for your search for the right icons for your BI application.

Be sure to send us a screen shot of your app. We’d love to feature your design on

Design Elements for Dashboard Applications

Available as a free download for a limited time, the “Inspire” Backend Admin Template is presented as a PSD (photoshop) file. Even if you can’t personally open a PSD file, you should download this very helpful template for your development team or user interface designer. They’ll love you for it.

Here’s the link:

And here’s some screenshots of the graphic design elements the UI Kit contains: