Analytics: A Conceptual Framework

In the 12/17/14 INFORMS Today Podcast, Glenn Wegryn observes that analytics is divided into two distinct camps. He notes that they tend to come from different organizational backgrounds and he describes them in the following way:

  • Data Centric – use data to find interesting insights and information to predict or anticipate what might happen;
  • Decision Centric – understand the business problem, then determine the specific methodologies and information needed to solve the specific problem.

That analytics appears to be divided into distinct camps should not be surprising, since, as I explained in Confusion Over Analytics, analytics should be understood as a conceptual grouping of the quantitative decision sciences as a whole. Therefore, it is to be expected that disciplines within the quantitative decision sciences have distinctive backgrounds, methods and approaches.

The data centric/decision centric categorization can be a useful way to think about analytics, since two disciplines contained within the analytics conceptual grouping fit these categories perfectly: data science (data centric); operations research (decision/problem centric). Using this categorization, a framework can be constructed, within which, the various types of analytics, data science, and operations research can be  related to each other in a logically consistent way.

Diagram of an Analytics Framework

Analytics Framework

Both common uses of the term analytics appear in the preceding diagram: to represent statistics and computer science and to represent all the quantitative decision sciences. This conceptual framework highlights a promising area for collaboration between data science and operations research (prescriptive analytics), while recognizing that most prescriptive quantitative analysis does not require intensive data analysis.