When to choose business intelligence or data discovery

2014-0826 - BI vs Data Discovery

When to choose business intelligence or data discovery

Every type of business has to make important decisions. But how can one make quick and effective decisions without the right information at the right time? Today, a lot of data enters organizations from everywhere—the Internet, internal business systems, the Cloud, and so on. Harvesting this data is extremely valuable to companies for gaining a competitive edge and ensuring long-term success.

The two primary ways that a growing number of businesses analyze their data today is through a business intelligence (BI) platform or a data discovery tool. CorSource compared these two technology solutions in our webinar, Where Business Intelligence Leaves Data Discovery in The Dust. For some company departments, data discovery works perfectly fine. But without an end-to-end BI solution in one platform, data discovery can quickly become a limiting experience.

While many companies may already use some type of software with analytics, it may also be likely that they’re spending hundreds of hours gathering and structuring data from different systems. By the time analysts gather all the spreadsheets and reports together, the data is probably outdated and minimally valuable. Having an end-to-end BI solution means interpreting data in real time, and going through fewer steps in order to optimize performance and efficiency.

So, which one’s better—business intelligence or data discovery? It depends on the end goal. Data discovery is a great tool when working with data that has a short shelf life and needs to be analyzed quickly and briefly. With it, one can detect patterns in data using search-based or visualization-driven analysis. While data discovery is not an end-to-end solution, it’s much more focused than BI; it enables users to extract the exact information they need for specialized data investigations.

While this sounds great, data discovery is really most useful for data analysts who know how to write queries and work with SQL. While not being familiar with processing large volumes of data, it’s unlikely that the average employee can leverage a data discovery tool to its fullest. And because it’s meant for one-time queries, data discovery is not ideal for solving ongoing issues or improving business strategies.

This is where BI swoops in to save the day (or your entire company, really). BI solutions were designed to answer every analytical question possible and give a 360-degree view of the entire business. While it gives top decision makers a broad, big-picture type of view, it also lets users dig deep and get more insight. Data discovery is best considered as just one small piece of the pie that is business intelligence, explains Southard Jones, VP of Product Development at Birst.

BI is what ties everything together. It grabs both unstructured and structured data to help companies understand operations and performance, identify risks, control costs and increase productivity. And it’s ideal for those big-picture issues like trending, forecasting, and operational decisions; all of these things can have a huge impact on business success. And the best thing is, users don’t have to be data scientists to use BI effectively.

At first glance, BI implementation could seem daunting, while data discovery is simple. It’s true, the latter is much more rapid, but the end result is not as deep, as we outlined above. One deployment approach is to start small and grow BI into the entire company, forgoing the pain that can come with “all-at-once” large company-wide deployments. BI does can transform a company one section at a time. There are also many large companies who use both solutions depending on what they’re trying to achieve. Here’s a quick recap of these data tools and where they excel:

The benefits of data discovery:

  • A speedy way to analyze data with a short shelf life
  • Great for answering one-off questions quickly
  • Best for tactical analysis
  • Ideal for small teams

The benefits of business intelligence:

  • Looks at longer time frames (historical, current, and future)
  • Scalability—can grow with your company and with volume of data
  • A broader, deeper view into business processes and strategies
  • Best for predictive and operational analysis
  • Anyone can manage and report data
  • Can handle complex organizations
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