Data analytics (DA) is the process of examining data sets in order to draw conclusions about the information they contain, increasingly with the aid of specialized systems and software. Data analytics technologies and techniques are widely used in commercial industries to enable organizations to make more-informed business decisions and by scientists and researchers to verify or disprove scientific models, theories and hypotheses.
As a term, data analytics predominantly refers to an assortment of applications, from basic business intelligence (BI), reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP) to various forms of advanced analytics. In that sense, it's similar in nature to business analytics, another umbrella term for approaches to analyzing data -- with the difference that the latter is oriented to business uses, while data analytics has a broader focus. The expansive view of the term isn't universal, though: In some cases, people use data analytics specifically to mean advanced analytics, treating BI as a separate category.
Data analytics initiatives can help businesses increase revenues, improve operational efficiency, optimize marketing campaigns and customer service efforts, respond more quickly to emerging market trends and gain a competitive edge over rivals -- all with the ultimate goal of boosting business performance. Depending on the particular application, the data that's analyzed can consist of either historical records or new information that has been processed for real-time analytics uses. In addition, it can come from a mix of internal systems and external data sources.