The automation of business processes with information technology has led to the automatic capture of massive data. Successful managers must be able to work with this data and make sense of all this information. They must understand not only the math and algorithms, but also the “big picture approach to using Big Data to gain insights.”7 Business analytics has become their weapon of choice.
What is business analytics? There are many definitions of business analytics as a field of study. From a practitioner’s perspective, business analytics can be defined as set of tools and techniques that are used to retrieve, process, transform, and analyze data in order to generate insights for better decisions in the business world. Wayne Winston, a prominent scholar and consultant in management science and prescriptive analytics, defines analytics as simply “using data for better decision making.”14
Business analytics integrates tools and techniques from four major fields: information management, descriptive analytics, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics. Information management deals with storing, extracting, transforming, and loading data and information from operational databases into data warehouses. Once the information is made available in data warehouses and data marts, business analysts can use a series of descriptive analytics tools to understand what has happened in the organization regarding its key performance indicators.
Further, predictive analytics tools can be used to forecast and estimate future behavior based on past performance. Finally, optimization and other management science models are used as prescriptive analytics to identify the best courses of actions and optimal decisions. The nature of management science has changed to accommodate the need to process large amounts of data sets. An obvious feature of today’s management science is its heavy reliance on spreadsheet modeling and other data analysis software programs.