As companies striving to embrace digital transformation and become data-driven, business intelligence and analytics skills and experience are essential to building a data-savvy team. However, if someone puts you on the spot, can you clearly tell the difference between business intelligence and analytics? And do you know what the key to unlocking value from data is? 

This article will discuss the definition of business intelligence and analytics and the difference between them. Also, we will give a brief introduction of what business analysts should do and the tools often used for BI&A.


Business intelligence and analytics (BI&A) and the related field of big data analytics have emerged as an increasingly important area in the business communities. 

Gartner has defined Analytics and Business Intelligence (ABI) as a general term that includes applications, infrastructure, tools, and best practices that allow access and analysis of information to improve decision-making and performance.

According to the definition, business intelligence and analytics refer to the data management solutions implemented in companies to collect, analyze and drive insights from data.

Business Intelligence Dashboard
BI Dashboard (by FineReport)

Note: the reports and BI dashboards samples used here are made with FineReport. The software build in various templates for your use. Feel free to try and apply.

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Business Intelligence

As we mentioned earlier in the article of BI Reporting, Business Intelligence(BI) can be broadly referred to as a process of managing data and delivering messages from data. But more specifically, it represents the toolkits that leaders employ when they want to collect and manage data assets produce informative reports to optimize the current workflows.

Business Analytics

Business analytics is how companies use statistical methods and techniques to analyze historical data to gain new insights and improve strategic decision-making.

What is the difference between business intelligence and analytics?

Like their definitions, there is some inevitable overlap between business intelligence and business analytics. Sometimes, people use them interchangeably. It doesn’t matter if you are running a small business because these responsibilities may be tied to one person or a small team. But if you are working in a company with complex business, I suggest you distinguish between business intelligence and data analytics.

We can find that business intelligence focuses on processing what happened in the past and how it happened until now. It is often used to identify significant trends and patterns.

Business Intelligence Dashboard
Dashboard(by FineReport)

In contrast, business analytics is often described as a more statistically-based field. Data experts use quantitative tools to deal with the causes of things that happened in the past, and make predictions and formulate future growth strategies. It breaks down the contributing factors and causality.

All in all, business intelligence involves using historical data to determine how the company should operate in the present. It is tailor-made for those who want to identify “pain points” in their workflow, improve efficiency, simplify processes, or achieve specific goals.

By contrast, business analytics may use historical data to predict what may happen in the future or how the organization will move forward. As a result, business analytics may provide more valuable insights for those who want to change their business model or primary directions within the organization.

Analytics and Business Intelligence Tools 

In our blog, we have talked about BI tools many times. I listed the Top 10 Free and Open Source BI Tools for your review. Here, I recommend FineReport as a professional reporting and BI tool, which has been recognized with Honorable Mention by Gartner in the Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.

Here I also put some reports and Business Intelligence dashboards developed by FineReport. 

Business Intelligence Dashboard
Profit center -dashborad (by FineReport)
Business Intelligence Dashboard
Interative Report (by FineReport)

FineReport was the solution for data integration, data visualization, data analysis, data query, data management, and data entry across the organization.

FineReport supports connecting to all mainstream databases and can integrate multiple sources with different business systems to help you comprehensively understand your business.

Analytics Graphs
Data visualization with FineReport

Meanwhile, FineReport provides 19 categories and over 50 styles of
self-developed HTML5 charts to give you strong Interactive visualization effects.

There are more amazing features waiting for your discovery. The personal version is free and without any time and function limits! Try and find how FineReport can help you win the competition in the data field.

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Business analytics and business intelligence solutions

After introducing you excellent analytics and business intelligence tools, I’d like to pick FineReport to show you the real use.

Sales case–Multi-dimensional sales

Many companies resort to FineReport to expect for useful business analytics and business intelligence solutions. One of them uses FineReport to form multi–dimensional sales dashboards to check the company’s sale performances. These dimensions are relatively from overall, time, product, region and subsidiary. Companies could view revenue and profit from multiple dimensions. It is especially convenient for companies to conduct in-depth research on specific regions and products, ultimately improving the corresponding sales strategy.

From the overall dimension, companies can have an intuitive understanding of the overall situation of corporate sales. Compare the business situation with the company’s plan, and decide whether a major adjustment to the company’s strategy is needed in the next stage.

The time dimension divides the sales situation according to the set time unit. Companies can select time periods when sales are too high or too low, and further form business analytics to reasons of the improvement or deterioration of business conditions. Companies will take these reasons into consideration when formulating future sales strategies.

The product dimension can be used to visually see the proportion of each product in the company’s sales through the pie chart. The higher the proportion, the better the sales situation, and the company’s sales strategy for the product is appropriate. The low proportion indicates that the product is not well sold. Through business analytics, the sales strategy of this product needs to be reformulated to promote sales.

The regional dimension can provide an overview of the sales of each target market. If the sales situation is good, it means that the strategy for the region is successful, but it is difficult to continue to explore the market in this region. Therefore, the strategy in the future is mainly to maintain the market position of the region. If the sales situation in this area is not good, it means that the current sales strategy is not very successful, but the potential market is large. Business intelligence solutions to this condition is to adjust current sales strategy to achieve greater sales growth.

The subsidiary dimension makes a horizontal comparison of the sales of each subsidiary. Subsidiaries with good sales conditions can be a role model for companies, and it is recommended that subsidiaries learn their sales methods. For companies with poor sales, the group needs to urge them to improve their business strategies.

In a word, FineReport could help to provide business analytics and business intelligence solutions from various dimensions, aiding business strategies-making.

an interface of multi-dimensional sales dashboard by FineReport
Multi-dimensional sales dashboard(by FineReport)

IoT case–Traffic condition monitoring

Business intelligence solutions can also be applied to other fields. For example, intelligent transportation monitoring system is specialized for government use.

The system can detect the types of traffic violations. Through the analysis of the proportion of reasons, the transportation department can decide in which areas it is necessary to strengthen transportation knowledge education. In addition, by visualizing road traffic data from cameras and sensors, the relative department can conduct business analytics and grasp the actual traffic conditions in areas and routes, and respond quickly to large-scale failures.

an interface of intelligent transportation monitoring system of FineReport
Intelligent transportation monitoring system (by FineReport)


Let’s go back and see what we discussed in this article. First, we examine the definitions of business intelligence and analytics. They share some commons, but we focus more on their differences. Business intelligence prioritizes what has happened descriptively or what is currently happening. By comparison, analytics usually uses more data mining, modeling, and machine learning to consider the possibility of predictive analysis of future results. Last but not least, we recommend FineReport as a powerful tool to develop BI and reporting system for your company.

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