The simplest definition of Analytics is "the science of analysis". A simple and practical definition, however, would be how an entity(i.e., business) arrives at an optimal or realistic decision based on existing data. Business managers may choose to make decisions based on past experiences or rules of thumb, or there might be other qualitative aspects to decision making; but unless there are data involved in the process, it would not be considered analytics.

Common applications of Analytics include the study of business data using statistical analysis in order to discover and understand historical patterns with an eye to predicting and improving business performance in the future. Also, some people use the term to denote the use of mathematics in business. Others hold that field of analytics includes the use of Operations Research, Statistics and Probability. However, it would be erroneous to limit the field of analytics to only statistics and mathematics.

Analytics closely resembles statistical analysis and data mining, but tends to be based on modeling involving extensive computation. Some fields within the area of analytics are enterprise decision management, marketing analytics, predictive science, strategy science, credit risk analysis and fraud analytics.

Portfolio analysis

A common application of business analytics is portfolio analysis. In this, a bank or lending agency has a collection of accounts of varying value and risk. The accounts may differ by the social status (wealthy, middle-class, poor, etc.) of the holder, the geographical location, its net value, and many other factors. The lender must balance the return on the loan with the risk of default for each loan. The question is then how to evaluate the portfolio as a whole.

For instance, the least risk loan may be to the very wealthy, but there are a very limited number of wealthy people. On the other hand there are many poor that can be lent to, but at greater risk. Some balance must be struck that maximizes return and minimizes risk. The analytics solution may combine time series analysis, with many other issues in order to make decisions on when to lend money to these different borrower segments, or decisions on the interest rate charged to members of a portfolio segment to cover any losses among members in that segment.

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