BI vs. Analytics
I know many of you already know my position on this, but I thought I'd get it out in the open and challenge all of you with a controversial discussion. In my definition – and believe it, I am fighting and defending it every day – analytics has always been, and will always be, part of BI. What many of the vendors and analysts describe as "the new age of analytics" I built at Citibank in the early '80s and then built in about 50+ enterprises in the '90s at PwC. I think the effort of trying to differentiate analytics from BI is a vendor-invented hype, since many BI vendors are running out of ways to differentiate themselves (and incorrectly so: see the next paragraph, and many other next-gen BI trends). I also disagree with the “old BI = bad”, “new analytics = good” premise that I see in many analysts' papers. You and I know that you can’t build analytics (OLAP, advanced analytics, etc.) without basic ETL, DW, MDM, etc. So nothing’s really changed as far as I am concerned: we are still fighting the same battles – silos, data quality, etc.
Besides, while this was indeed a differentiation a few years ago, today most of the top BI vendors do have OLAP and advanced analytics (see my upcoming 2010 BI Forrester Wave™ sometime in July) functionality, so it's really a commodity now. Instead, I prefer to write about REALLY new and game- changing trends like self-service, agile BI, BI SaaS, in-memory analytics, and many more. This is truly where vendors differentiate themselves and, much more importantly, what makes a true difference for the users of BI. Another potential game-changing trend that I see is that rather than fruitlessly trying to align business and IT for BI, I say: let IT handle data prep, and then let end users do their own BI and analytics.
Bottom line: there are plenty of real and actually useful BI trends and next-gen technologies and approaches out there. Let's concentrate on them.