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It is all in the name – What does “Data and Analytics” Mean?

by Andrew White  |  August 25, 2017  |  1 Comment

In my line of work you get to see a lot of marketing hype.  I even used to work in marketing, so I had the pleasure of thinking up ideas for how to explain something I thought was different and new. The world of data and analytics is no different.  And it just as complex and fraught with word-mess.  Even the name itself can be a challenge.  What does it really mean?

“Data and analytics” for us means something specific yet for you, and certainly vendors, it may mean something different.  For us it means (and I paraphrase since I don’t think we have a widely agreed single definition published):

  • The management of data for all uses – operational and analytic
  • The analysis of data in order to improve decision making

Now in reality even this simple scope struggles for clarity.  For example, “data management” tends to be interpreted as “the physical side of data stores, warehouses, ODS’s, integration, and tools” etc.  But really we also mean it to include data strategy, information governance*, information value and so on. But this nuance is often lost and so a lot of client’s say “data management” and they mean “infrastructure” only.

The word “analytics” is also abused and so confusion reigns.  For us it focuses on decisions making – and of course there are very different kinds of decisions from macro to micro, to real-time to year-long cycles.  Again, reality is quite different and so many organizations equate “analytics” to “dashboards”. The result is that there is much less concern or work that looks in business process, business outcome, and how the two change once you add insights to how that decisions changes in context.

One last point on “analytics”: When you “do” analytics you need data and as we know we now have big data and IOT data and so on.  So when folks say, “analytics strategy” they nowadays imply “the management of the analysis and the data used by that analysis”.  This data – used for analytics use cases – is part of “analytics”.

So we put “data” and “analytics” together to give us “data and analytics” which takes us back to the scope I started with at the top of this blog.  Thus the vision and strategy spans all uses of data (operational and analytical), and all analytics; data and analytics programs span all possible use of data, and all analytics, and so on.

But recently a new phrase has popped up – a few times in inquiry with clients and also in the press.  It could be that some folks are being lazy and using shorthand, but the phrase “data analytics” is out there. What is this?

I tend to push back and ask, “Do you mean ‘data for analytics’ or ‘all things data, and analytics'”?  Or is this just a more friendly way to say “data and analytics”.  This might seem trivial but the implications are huge since there is a vast difference between “data and analytics” and “analytics” based on the scope outlined above.  Check out the vendors you work with – and see what terms and phrases they use.  I bet you will see all of the above, and more!

* We stopped saying “data governance” some years ago since it too tended to mean “what IT does with the data” and not what we mean which is what “the business does with data”.

Category: analytics  business-intelligence  data-and-analytics  data-management  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a research vice president and agenda manager for MDM and Analytics at Gartner. His main research focus is master data management (MDM) and the drill-down topic of creating the "single view of the product" using MDM of product data. He was co-chair… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on It is all in the name – What does “Data and Analytics” Mean?


  1. Michael Gibson says:

    Personally, I don’t like the idea of combining management of data for operational and analytical use. I prefer to keep them separate. I understand that there’s a lot of commonality in managing operational and analytical data, but I think it’s beneficial to separate them, because they serve different purposes – and employ different methods in their use.

    So how about…

    ‘Analytics, and the data that supports it’



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