Ask people about business intelligence (BI), these days, and they almost invariably talk about Big Data. While closely related, they are certainly not the same thing. Having already published Big Data trends for this year, we follow up here with the top business intelligence trends.
BI Balancing Act
Elizabeth Hedstrom Henlin, an analyst at Technology Business Research (TBR), forecasts that vendors set to grow in a maturing BI software market are aligning portfolios and go-to-market strategies with customers’ evolving business intelligence needs. They face a BI landscape where growth dictates being able to equally serve advanced customers who got on board early and know exactly which niche tools they need to expand current deployments, as well as lagging adopters who know they need to have fundamental BI implementations and don’t know where to start.
"Vendors that can balance customers’ BI software needs around performance and cost, as well as interoperability and integration, will drive adoption of BI products and ensure revenue growth in 2014," said Henlin.
Cracking the Data Code
Eric Kimberling, managing partner, Panorama Consulting Solutions www.panorama-consulting.com, continues this theme. He notes that while companies have had roughly 20 years of experience gathering transactional and operational data in their enterprise systems, they have yet to figure out how to make sense of it all. He believes the real battle in the coming year will be over who can simplify the process of providing fast answers from the chaotic mountain of data they are accumulating.
"Vendors that crack the code on how to translate this data into meaningful information that can support decision-making within organizations will have a clear advantage over other vendors," he said.
Educate the Masses
TBR sees a critical need for vendors to sustain investment around user education. The self-service aspects of BI tools and applications place tools into the hands of business users who do not possess fundamental knowledge bases in how to use them in support of the business. Education is the key.
"Those who can teach users how to ask questions and how to interpret outputs create a critical bridge of trust which will sustain not only user loyalty but purchasing engagement over time," said Henlin. "Adding business process change consulting to the conversation further enables customers to change how they do business in response to more and better insights into business data – extending engagements outside of business intelligence and into business transformation."
Agile BI in the Cloud
With companies using data in creative ways and harnessing cloud services to roll out big projects quickly, easily and on the cheap, there comes a need to change the corporate mindset. This means rapid recognition of successes and failures, scaling up the winners and ditching or revising the losers.
"Those using cloud services must take on a real mindset of innovation, testing Big Data projects on short timelines, measuring business areas in new ways – internally and against each other to drive innovation, scaling projects that work and folding projects that don’t – that not only achieve great results and prove ROI on technology investment," said Hiro Yoshikawa, co-founder and CEO of Treasure Data.
IT Be Damned
Mark Torr, director of the SAS Analytical Platform Center of Excellence, thinks IT needs to get out of the way of the data analysis juggernaut. Instead of saddling it with burdensome storage requirements and traditional IT procurement processes, he thinks the line of business leaders can do better by grabbing the reins.
"The major trend in 2014 will be the business, not IT, being the driver for projects," said Torr. "In doing that we will see a move to focus on business problems, which will shift the thinking from infrastructure components – like Hadoop and technologies that manage it, such as Pig and MapReduce – to solutions that are not only capturing and managing data but which are able to exploit data for business benefit without needing an army of coders. Once the business explores solutions for in-memory reporting, visualization and exploration, as well as analytics technologies, anything can happen."
David Smith, vice president of Marketing and Community at Revolution Analytics, expects a growing presence for embedded business intelligence this year. He thinks a significant trend will be adding BI as a feature embedded in other hardware, software and equipment.
"In 2014, business decision makers will be empowered through easy-to-use tools that leverage the insights of data scientists, by providing real-time forecasts and recommendations in the BI tools they already use," said Smith. "Advanced analytics embedded in BI enables data-driven decision making, drawing on the expertise of data scientists elsewhere in the organization."
Piloting Cloud BI
While companies are still somewhat hesitant to utilize the cloud for analytics, 2014 will see more organizations choosing to pursue smaller, piloted initiatives in the cloud. This way they can evaluate data on a smaller scale and more quickly respond to demand for actionable insights, rather than going all-in with cloud out of the gate. If, said Capgemini’s North America lead and Senior Vice President for Business Information Management Scott Schlesinger, 2014 is the Year of machine-to-machine data, then organizations will have a specific business case to target for smaller, nimble analytics, making cloud the de-facto solution.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).