The Top Ten Trends in Business Intelligence

by Drew Robb

Mobile devices, the cloud and pesky startups are just a few of the trends altering the business intelligence landscape.

The business intelligence (BI) market has changed dramatically in recent years, as mergers, the cloud and the rise of open source and lower-cost alternatives have shaken up the landscape (see Business Intelligence Vendors Wrestle with Mergers, the Cloud and Open Source).

Here are some of the top trends in business intelligence, some nicely aligned, while others are contradictory.


Business Intelligence Trends

1. Accessibility and Mobility: A big change in the land of BI is that a typical system can harness a front end as simple as a mobile device or Web browser. This gives users access when and where they need it to all the relevant, secure and trusted information so they can gain insight into how their organization is performing.

"It's no longer an IT-only domain," said Harriet Fryman, business unit executive at IBM Business Analytics.

2. Power to the People: Paul Sonderegger, chief strategist at Endeca, concurs. He sees the rise of more and more power BI tools for non-technical people. Instead of execs being beholden to a power user or IT staffer, they are now able to analyze, slice and dice on their own.

"Many BI tools are intended for sophisticated power users, but these users are only a small fraction of the decision-making population in a company," he said. "Today, almost every business user is expected to make informed decisions."

3. The Need for Speed: In-memory analytics is a relatively new but rapidly evolving field. Benefits include power and agility, greater speed and breadth of running "what if" scenarios, and putting large data sets into the hands of users in a manageable and easily navigated manner.

"We have really only seen the tip of the iceberg, and in-memory is an incredible enabler of co-innovation," said Jason Rose, senior director of BI solution marketing at SAP BusinessObjects. "In-memory will be a key differentiator in the market over the next several years."

4. Cloud BI: Cloud-based technologies represent a fundamental shift in how software applications are delivered. In the case of BI, this facilitates deeper insights and better decision making. Whether it's utilizing the cloud to perform dashboard publishing or providing author and edit functionality, cloud-based BI offers greater power and scalability coupled with an attractive business model.

"Client-side, cloud-based authoring will certainly be demanded by the marketplace, as will faster and more flexible self-service solutions powered by in-memory architectures," said John Callan, director of product marketing for TIBCO Software's Spotfire.

5. Search and BI Merge: Easy-to-use search and BI are converging as IT strives to give users all the information necessary to make daily business decisions, coupled with the ability to discover, explore and analyze. Forrester is calling this "agile BI," stating that BI applications have "to seamlessly and innately integrate any type of data and content and provide capabilities to do faceted type search versus traditional OLAP to analyze complex data structures with thousands of dimensions and complex hierarchies."

"This type of BI self-service for knowledge workers addresses multiple shortcomings of traditional BI applications," said Sonderegger. "Search capabilities, such as Endeca, that facilitate this type of self-service discovery on structured and unstructured content can empower users to ask and answer in-the-moment questions on any kind of information."


Business Intelligence Trends

6. Fast Food BI: BI used to be a fine dining experience. But all the indications are that it is about to move into the fast food category — at least for some users.

"On-demand offerings with utility-based licensing have piqued the interest of a growing number of consumers," said Gareth Doherty, an analyst at InfoTech Research. "The growing interest in the BI market for lower-cost solutions has led to an increase in software-as-a-service BI offerings, even among the mega-vendors" such as IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects, SAS and Oracle Hyperion.

7. BI for the Masses: Most major vendors are preaching the virtues of wider BI deployments at the department level. According to Doherty, this is primarily a marketing move aimed at gaining a greater footprint and larger licensing volumes within organizations. But there are benefits on the customer side. The promise of self-service BI is to lower dependence on IT and reduce IT-related support and maintenance costs by creating a self-sufficient user base.

"Vendors have developed more user-friendly interfaces and better office integration to aid in the push for departmental BI," Doherty said. "Vendors successful at departmental deployments, like QlikTech's QlikView, with its rich visual data discovery, are facing stiffer competition."

8. The Rise of the Little Guy: Over the last couple of years, many independent BI vendors have been gobbled up by the bigger fish. In some cases, this dead-ended innovation. However, the remaining independents continue to add new twists to the BI development pathway.

"Independent vendors will continue to grow and innovate by bringing BI to the masses through rich interactive data visualizations," said Nobby Akiha, senior vice president of marketing at open source BI vendor Actuate. "Vendors that best provide these types of services and BI for everyone will begin to take a stronghold in the BI market."

Surprisingly, some of the big names acknowledge this trend.

"Small vendors will continue to emerge to address specific niche BI needs such as alternative visualization paradigms, or specific decisioning engines and algorithms to augment and integrate within the ecosystem of the established platform vendors," said Fryman.

9. The Big Get Bigger: According to Gartner analyst Dan Sommer, the top five vendors now account for 71 percent of the pie. SAP led with 22 percent, followed by Oracle, SAS Institute, IBM and Microsoft. As more acquisitions take place, expect more than 80 percent of the market to reside in the hands of the few. But there is hope.

"While IT is trying to rationalize around one or a few vendors, the market for self-service BI is wide open," said Sommer.

10. Visualize It: Instead of raw data, statistics or predictions, BI is beginning to get a lot more visual — and that is leading to some culture shock. Many organizations face the quandary of getting long-time spreadsheet users to try new tools such as visualization in 2-D and 3-D, which goes way beyond what they are used to accomplishing in Microsoft Office.

"The addition of visualization capabilities has been primarily about improving the 'story around the insight' but also seeing new motivation to expand the use of BI through these very graphic means to understand data," said Matthew Mikell, a BI strategist at SAS.


  This article was originally published on Saturday Oct 9th 2010
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