Business Intelligence is not Data Science.

There’s a lot of ‘yeah but’ statements eminating from some in the BI community.

TL;DR summary:

  • Yeah but, it’s all about driving business insights from the data!
  • Yeah but, Data Science still uses all the same BI tools we use!
  • Yeah but, Data Science is really just what BI was years ago!

A perspective:

  • No. BI is about using asymmetrical information advantage to extract surplus from customers. Data Science is discovering pareto optima between the customer and the business.
  • No. Data Science is not religious about toolsets.
  • No. Data Scientists have seen what went gone wrong with BI. Achieving the same fate would be a failure.

What I stand for as a Data Scientist:

  • The sun rises and sets with the customer.
  • If we do right by the customer, we’ll do right by the business.
  • Pareto Optimality, not Nash Equilibrium.
  • The right tool for the right job.
  • Iterate violently.

In other words:

  • It’s about the Customer, not the Business.
  • It’s about the Experience, not the Data.
  • It’s about the Outcomes, not the Tools.

Perhaps if more BI consultants thought like Data Scientists, they’d be Data Scientists.

It’s okay. We can be neighbors. We can work together.

I’m not saying that BI isn’t important. It’s totally important.

We think we’re different because we’re thinking differently.


I’m Christopher Berry.
I tweet about analytics @cjpberry
I write at

2 thoughts on “Business Intelligence is not Data Science

  1. Sam Ladner says:

    Curious and curiouser! You have taken up the sword “of the customer,” just as many other disciplines have claimed to do in the past (e.g., design, marketing, market research, “social” business).

    I find it quite interesting that everyone is clamouring all over each other to claim that no REALLY they CARE about the “customer” and those other disciplines do not.

    What is going on here? Why don’t we just say that capitalism has an immanent flaw, which is to say, it puts profit before people, and we must fight this all the way. I for one have no problem saying profit is fine, but it’s not the only reason I’m in business.

    Instead, we are all collectively arguing that we “speak for the customer” (not “people.”)

    What’s going on with this?

  2. SAM!!!

    Your comment is so good that it deserves its own blog post and response.

    That’ll be forthcoming Monday.

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