Less than meets the ear

Last week, SAS Institute did what few other rearrangers of jargon have done: They got attention — in the way fashion hounds do. They’d like to replace “business intelligence” with “business analytics.” Why? Because “business intelligence is not “where the future is.”

Last year’s styles are never next year’s. Sooner or later, all clothes, cars and business terms become unfashionable. It’s not because anything really changed.

Neil Raden calls SAS’s move “all fluff,” and it is. Others I’ve heard from think so too, such as the eminent industry analyst I talked to weeks ago about another attempt at jargon-making. “What a bunch of b—” he said. “We have so many buzzwords.”

Some of this bloggery about this goes off track, though, when opinions touch on tools and expectations of jargon. Neil, for example, scoffs at “business analytics,” SAS’s term for the day, because “it doesn’t tell me anything.”

Let’s think. What does “dog” tell us? Who needs to say “domesticated canine”? “Dog” does tell us something because we’ve agreed on what it means. Words work like that.

One commenter wrote that “business intelligence” doesn’t imply any business value. Must it? If a shepherd mentions his “dogs,” must he correct himself and say “work dog”? Even then, someone might complain that that doesn’t say what kind of work.

Poor, poor “business intelligence.” We keep using it for now like a still-good jacket of last year’s color. But, ah, the weather’s changing.


  1. Dan Murray says:

    More buzzwords to confuse people with. The hard work is actually in making this all more understandable and usable to the average information consumer…who may not happen to be an expert in database schema.

  2. Correction: More marketing words created to appeal to the average information consumer who doesn’t know, or care to know, what a database schema is. Business intelligence is now synonymous with big, expensive and complicated ‘stuff’ that gets between you and the things you want to know. SAS knows that, and they are doing exactly the right thing to position themselves for growth.

  3. Neil Raden says:

    I’m glad you used the example of “dog.” We all know the definition of dog – a furry, quadruped member of the canine family, etc. In addition, we know the MEANING of dog – man’s best friend. It is through meaning defined by relationships (dog/man) that we understand things. I know the definition of “business” and the definition of “analytics” but I don’t know the meaning of “business analytics” because I don’t know the relationships, except one – SAS.


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