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Business Intelligence Versus Operational Intelligence: What’s the Difference?

Data analytics has added many new elements to business operations. Organizations now have access to many, many sources and streams of data, from historical marketing data to current log data, industry data, sensor data and more. It goes without saying that this data is useful in deriving intelligence, but there are different types of intelligence to glean from your data sets. Two similar and confusing terms are ‘business intelligence’ and ‘operational intelligence’. What are the differences? Here’s everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.

Accurately Defining Business Intelligence

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Business intelligence is what all that report generation is about. BI is usually delivered periodically, such as once per day, week, month, quarter, etc.

For years, organizations have conducted analysis to derive business intelligence (BI), which involves periodic reporting on issues that are useful for making decisions over the (relatively) long term, such as the next fiscal quarter or even next year. Business intelligence is what you generate with all those reports you produce for management and the C-suite. BI generally comes from SQL queries, but not always. BI is what you need for budgeting and financial planning, plans for expansion, plans for hiring or firing employees, and plans to initiate new product lines.

What is Operational Intelligence (Also Called Business PROCESS Intelligence)

Operational intelligence (which is sometimes called business process intelligence, just because the world isn’t yet full enough of confusing terms and acronyms), unlike BI, is not generated over time or analyzed at leisure. OI is immediate, real-time intelligence on your operations in order to make an immediate decision or take immediate action. OI is generally managed via a dashboard (versus the report generation used to manage BI). OI is useful for things like making product recommendations for an online shopper, recognizing a pattern that indicates system downtime and averting the problem, recognizing and thwarting a cyber attack, and other immediate problem solving tasks.

Why You Need BI and OI

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Operational intelligence is the immediate knowledge you need to make recommendations to shoppers on your e-commerce site or to detect intruders in your network.

Clearly, OI doesn’t eliminate your need for BI, and vice versa. Organizations need both in order to be responsive to customers, navigate an ever-evolving marketplace, and plan for the future. While most businesses already have tools for BI in place, OI tools are different and need to be researched and implemented before the business can leverage OI.

The good news is, the Big Data solutions you need are available.

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