Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics: What’s the Difference?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Just how similar are business intelligence and business analytics? We dive into how they differ and where they overlap.

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Business intelligence vs. business analytics: At a glance

Business intelligence and business analytics are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are differences between the two terms. Understanding these differences helps leaders implement the right tools and processes for business growth. Familiarity with these terms will help students or career switchers prepare for their desired career path.

Business IntelligenceBusiness Analytics
DefinitionBusiness intelligence is used to analyze historical and present data to understand and drive current business operationsBusiness analytics is used to analyze historical data to drive current and future business
UsagePresent business operationsFuture business operations
ApplicationSuitable for large companiesSuitable for all companies
ToolsPowerBI, SAP, QlikSense, etc.Microsoft Office (Excel), Google Analytics, Looker, etc.

What is business intelligence?

Business intelligence (BI) is an infrastructure for storing and analyzing data collected from business operations. The process of collecting and analyzing data provides real-time metrics that support better business decisions. A well-made business intelligence dashboard can help you track performance benchmarks, spot trends and patterns, and maximize workflow.

Business intelligence tools include software and other systems, from Excel spreadsheets to reporting or supply chain management software, that help track real-time data. 

Read more: 5 Business Intelligence Tools You Need to Know

What is business analytics?

Business analytics, sometimes considered a subset of business intelligence, is the process of taking the data collected from business intelligence tools and turning it into useful and actionable insights. Common business analytics methods include data mining, aggregation, forecasting, and data visualization.

In business analytics, teams often partner with data scientists to help make sense of the data and inform strategy. 

Read more: Data Analytics: Definition, Uses, Examples, and More

Key differences between business intelligence and business analytics

There are a few differences between business intelligence and business analytics that are important to know. The following factors provide context behind the differences so that you can decide which types of tools and systems are best suited for your business.

1. Focus on the present or future

One of the most common identifiers for distinguishing business intelligence and analytics is whether they focus on present or future challenges. Business intelligence uses historical data to understand and make decisions on current business operations. Meanwhile, business analytics tends to use data to predict future trends and opportunities. 

This may manifest as business intelligence working through pain points in an organization’s internal workflow to meet certain goals or increase efficiency, whereas business analytics provides more useful insights on product innovation within the global marketplace.

Descriptive vs. predictive approach

The focus on the present vs. the future can be referred to as “descriptive” or “predictive” in that business intelligence gives detailed information that describes the current situation, and business analytics identifies patterns and trends to predict future events.


2. How big or old an organization is

The size and age of a business can influence whether business intelligence or analytical tools are used. Typically, BI tools are used in larger organizations, while organizations of all sizes can use business analytics. 

Further, a younger business or one that has gone through major restructuring might be more likely to focus on business analytics that predict future trends based on their history. More established organizations may be comfortable with their growth rate and choose to focus on business intelligence tools that provide information about current performance and operations. 

However, most businesses will benefit from using a combination of both.

3. Structured or unstructured data

Business intelligence tools are better for structured data, which can be pulled from financial software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Business analytics tools can be used to transform unstructured and semi-structured data into organized data that can be analyzed more easily using predictive analytics.

Read more: Structured vs. Unstructured Data: What’s the Difference?

4. Analysts or managers

Those in an organization who need access to real-time data are often managers, marketers, accountants, and departments that don’t have data analysis technical expertise. Business intelligence tools provide information so they can make sound decisions without the help of a data analyst or scientist. All they need to learn is how to navigate the software to view the dashboards they need.

Business analytics requires more navigation and expertise to decipher the data to transform it into something meaningful. It’s often data analysts and data scientists who can build and apply machine learning algorithms (such as predictive analytics) that work through large data sets to produce useful insights.

Read more: What Is a Business Analyst? 2024 Career Guide

3. Salary and job title differences

When exploring career options in business intelligence or analytics, you'll likely find that there are differences in the job titles and the salaries you can earn. Here are some examples, with yearly salary averages taken from Glassdoor as of February 2024:

Business intelligence job titles and salaries

Business analytics roles and salaries

Read more: How To Become a Certified Business Analyst

Learn business analytics and business intelligence 

Start learning today with a 7-day free trial for Coursera Plus. With the Google Business Intelligence Professional Certificate, you’ll learn data visualization, modeling, dashboarding, and reporting in two months or less.

If you're considering transitioning into a business analyst role, you might consider boosting your resume with the Microsoft Business Analyst Professional Certificate. You can gain hands-on experience with popular data tools like Power BI and Microsoft Excel in just 1 month while earning an employer-recognized certificate from Microsoft.

To deepen your understanding of business analytics, consider enrolling in UPenn Wharton’s Business Analytics Specialization. In just a month or less, you’ll learn how to work with analytics to understand customers, operations, people, and accounting.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "Business Intelligence Analyst Overview,,29.htm." Accessed February 15, 2024.

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