Data Visualization vs. Business Intelligence: What are the Differences?

by Dhiram Shah

The modern world functions on information. No matter where you go or what you do, whenever a decision is being made, you will require information. Even simply stapling a document means that you understand how many pages are there in the bundle, whether there are pins in the stapler, whether you are using the right stapler or not.

Data vs. Information
But why do I keep saying data and not information? Can I use the two terms interchangeably? If not, what is the difference between data and information? The difference is simply the fact that information is the meaningful analysis that you derive from simple facts and figure that do not mean anything on their own. Therefore, you can say that data is comprised of chunks of information that when considered together will mean something to you.

What is Data Visualization?
Having said that, simply just deriving meaning from information is not all that can be done. Taking it up a notch, information that you extracted from one batch of data and combining it with another batch to strengthen data to accept or reject a hypothesis. Furthermore, representing the total information gathered to third-parties for your own purposes is also important. This representation may be achieved with the helps of graphs or charts or tables.

This representation of data to information in terms that reveal trends is called data visualization. The concept is meant to make it easy to understand data and base decisions on it. Goes without saying that the data is widespread and is available in large amounts which makes it even more important to understand how data visualization works.

What is Business Intelligence?
But reaching the stage where you have enough information to visualize the data is a complex task. Several tools and applications may be put to work to turn the raw data into meaningful information upon which decisions could be based. The concept of Business Intelligence, on the other hand refers to making decisions on the basis of available information that has been analyzed and processed to create relevant insights.

The Distinction
Business Intelligence tools may even help in visualizing the data. This is the point where it all becomes clear and a clear line is drawn between data visualization and Business Intelligence. Furthermore, business intelligence is a broader concept that also sheds light on collecting data through various sources.

Therefore, data visualization may make use of data that is in semi-structured or structured form. On the other hand, Business Intelligence deals with data that that is often in an unstructured form. This also signifies that the purpose of the data in both cases is also very different from each other. Where data visualization may focus on simply stating the information in an interesting manner, Business Intelligence deals with making decisions from the processed data and hence keep the business running.

At the end, it must also be stated, that Big Data concepts are an important consideration in Business Intelligence implementation.