Gartner’s 2012 predictions for business intelligence focus on the challenges around Cloud, alignment with business metrics and a balanced organisational model between centralised and scattered. Forrester has looked toward 2012 with everything from the rise of individualised BI tools to Cloud to mobility to Big Data.
At the recent Gartner BIIM Summit, industry panellists discussed issues such as BI spending under IT and finding the right people with BI skills.
There’s no doubt that 2012 will be an exciting time for business intelligence and information management. While there are many factors that will continue to influence and shape the industry—data quality, rising storage and network requirements, IT capabilities and business requirements—we’ve identified what we think are the top six BI trends for the year ahead.
BI in the Cloud
As Cloud computing continues to dominate the IT landscape, so too does the discussion of BI in the Cloud. Gartner is sceptical of Cloud BI take up, predicting that cloud offerings will make up just 3 per cent of BI revenue by 2013 as user adoption will lag far behind the expectations of vendors, according to CBR. In his top 10 BI predictions for 2012, Forrester analyst Boris Evelson believes that Cloud BI will continue to chip away at on-premises BI, but it’s still a long road ahead.
What we’re finding is that decision makers are still questioning the Cloud. The greatest challenge for organisations is the logistical issue of moving data into the Cloud initially. They need to look at the security network and bandwidth, the quality of the data they are transferring and planning to analyse and think about a usable interface.
Once data has been transferred to the Cloud, there are numerous cost-effective BI and big data tools available for organisations to take advantage of. CIOs need to approach discussions with management and the organisation with the benefits of BI in the Cloud and we should see an enthusiastic uptake.
Forrester’s Evelson believes 2012 will see mobile BI go mainstream, based on the need to make decisions when and where they need to be made. We agree.
Mobile business intelligence offers huge advantages for Australian organisations, particularly those with increasingly mobile and remote workforces. It means that staff and management are never disconnected from the tools that help them make business decisions.
Mobile business applications have become a vital part of most organisations. The increase in maturity and adoption of mobile technology has created a workforce reliant upon instant access to information. Business intelligence is no exception.
For those that rely on business intelligence to make important decisions and define future direction, Mobile BI is a cost-effective and sensible addition to the organisation. Due to the ease of consumption, more C-level executives will see the value of better business decision making, more often, when and where they need it.
Analytics is the next progression of modern BI. It uses algorithms to search for patterns and explanations. It looks at historical data to predict future activity for better business decision making. A recent MIT Sloan Management report found that organisations using analytics are more than twice as likely to substantially outperform their competitive peers.
Analytics will help companies differentiate themselves, it will allow them to run more efficiently, make the most of their customers and increase profitability. Analytics provides organisations with actionable intelligence. While BI has traditionally been hard to create a business case for, analytics has a direct correlation to an organisation’s top or bottom line.
Analytics has certainly already taken off, and we can only expect this area to continue to grow at a dramatic pace. The three biggest trends surrounding analytics the industry is likely to see are: Optimisation—the combination of business rules for optimised decision management; consumable analytics—the visual presentation of increasingly complex data; and new data analytics—the analysis of new types of data, such as social media, location information, etc.
It is important to bear in mind that, as with any business intelligence system, the companies reaping the rewards and gaining true value from analytics are the ones that have made a suitable investment, in particular establishing a stable, enterprise-grade solution.
As memory becomes cheaper, we’ll continue to witness the increasing popularity of in-memory analytics. In-memory analytics tools—such as Qlikview, Spofire and Tableau—allow for the querying and analysing of data from a computer’s RAM, resulting in quick and simple data exploration for BI and analytic applications.
Rather than relying on centrally controlled, monolithic data warehouses, users are able to download large amounts (up to 1 terabyte) of data onto their own computer and explore that information for proving theories and making business decisions throughout an organisation. Given the speed, ease and affordability with which these tools can put power back into the hands of the users, we are already seeing the adoption of in-memory analytics and can only believe its popularity will continue to grow at a similar pace.
As its popularity and adoption grows, however, it’s important to remember that ‘quick-fix’ and ‘short cut’ tools are no substitute for quality data. To ensure an organisation’s BI and analytics are accurate, in-memory analytics tools should be used in conjunction with a structured, quality data warehouse solution.
The Agile approach to BI
Those who work with us know that C3 Business Solutions is a huge supporter and advocate of the Agile development approach, and we’re currently witnessing its growth in popularity. An Agile approach can be used to incrementally remove operational costs and if deployed correctly, can return great benefits to any organisation.
Agile provides a streamlined framework for building business intelligence/data warehousing (BIDW) applications that regularly delivers faster results using just a quarter of the developer hours of a traditional waterfall approach. We’ve seen Agile cut project costs in half and drive project defect rates toward zero.
It leverages the 80/20 rule in many ways, such as allowing you to start a project after doing 20 per cent of the requirements and design that deliver 80 per cent of the project’s value. The remaining details are filled in once development is underway and everyone has a good look at what the challenges actually are.
Unlike the traditional waterfall methodology where planning is all done upfront, agile BI delivery folds 80 per cent of planning into the actual program deployment. This not only gets projects off the ground faster and gives the business results sooner, but yields much better requirements, so the effectiveness of the development team increases dramatically.
Forrester analyst, Evelson, believes that 2012 will see Big Data start to move out of silos and into enterprise IT and that the IT department will start to learn how to live with it.
The way we see it, Big Data is set to change the information landscape and, for those who embrace it, will provide strong competitive advantage and insight previously impossible.
The major BI vendors are all announcing support for, or solutions using Big Data technology based on the most widely accepted tool, Hadoop. In Australia, National ICT Australia (NICTA) developed ‘Scoobi’, a productivity framework for the Hadoop big data storage and processing platform.
We expect to see banks take up Big Data technology in the coming months, alongside other organisations with truly enormous datasets in highly competitive markets such as telecommunications, government agencies and retail.
Successful business intelligence projects will need to consider Big Data as part of their data landscape for the value that it delivers. More and more organisations will look toward statistics and data mining to set strategic direction and gain greater insights to stay ahead of the pack.
Big Data will help organisations better manage risk and improve the customer experience, fundamentally changing the way information is managed and used.
We believe these six areas will converge and grow over the next few years. Organisations will embrace the Agile approach, utilising new tools and technologies to decrease delivery times and demonstrate substantial business value. As we put more data into the Cloud, big data will become standard, which will in turn drive more sophisticated analytics back out of the Cloud. Data itself will be delivered to satisfy the desires of users, so access from mobile devices will lead over desk-based consumption. This entire process is cyclical; as users become more demanding of their mobile interfaces, the process will start again, prompting more agile development, more data into the Cloud and more analysed data out of the Cloud.
The businesses that embrace these new business intelligence trends, and take steps to change and adapt the way data is hosted, analysed, utilised and delivered, will be the ones that grow and prosper in 2012 and well beyond. They are the ones to watch.
Conrad Bates and Cameron Wall are co-founders and directors of C3 Business Solutions.