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These days it seems like one cannot go ten minutes without hearing about business intelligence, artificial intelligence, machine learning or the many other phrases in this arena.  It can all be confusing and getting to not only what each means but more importantly what does it mean for ME AND MY ORGANIZATION is daunting.  Hopefully, this blog successfully adds plain language explanation to aide the CFO.

So what does it all mean?

I think the easiest way to differentiate the two is business intelligence often answers what happened and artificial intelligence often answers what will happen next.  Business intelligence takes your historical data and makes it into usable, actionable information.  Artificial intelligence in simple terms uses algorithms to teach itself.

What do they have in common?

Both AI and BI take large or complex datasets and can automate how that data is processed, assembled or basically made useable.  Both are tools that can replace significant time spent on routine transactions and freeing up more time for the strategic.

What is applicable and when?

The short answer is it all depends on user needs.  If you are providing reporting or generating KPIs you are just looking for information and these are perfect places for BI.  If you are looking for forecasting or analysis you will need to employ AI.

Take the example of expense reporting.  If you load all your expense data in and are looking for reporting on what spending types you had or where spending was done those would be BI tasks.  If you took same data but wanted fraud review done that would be an AI task.  The AI would be able to learn from historical data to detect anomalies or outliers in current spending.

So what do I do next?

It’s time to determine your data strategy if you haven’t already.  Identifying your key data sets, process flows and needed management information are great start points to map.  Determine who the key stakeholders are and what information they need to make business decisions.  From there you can bring in the needed tools and systems.


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