The overall impact of Business Intelligence (BI) on the enterprise is projected to expand in 2014, with a number of key trends and technology advancements spurring adoption rates and changing fundamental aspects of its usage.
Specific trends encompass empowering business users, restructuring IT’s involvement, and escalating the usage of mobile, Cloud, and Big Data applications. The result is that Business Intelligence and analytics will be accessed much more quickly, easily, and frequently than before, and produce a burgeoning effect on the decision-making process for virtually all aspects of the enterprise.
The “B” in BI
Gartner recently revealed that “Leading business intelligence (BI) vendors will shift the emphasis of their new product investment from IT-authored production reports to business-user-driven data discovery and analysis tools.” With a multitude of dashboards, interactive visualizations, search, and other discovery tools specifically designed for business users, the process for accessing business intelligence is evolving towards self-service. End users will largely dictate the pace and the specific BI tools that are most relevant to the enterprise, with applications created with an ease of use that seemingly belies the IT department.
This trend should continue through 2014 and beyond, spurred by growing adoption rates of Cloud, mobile and Big Data applications for analytics which contribute to the consumerization of IT. Expect BI’s process and accessibility to become increasingly demystified and a normative part of business use.
Restructuring IT’s Role
A recent article in Forbes suggested that in 2014 “IT becomes an agile service broker (or fades away).” With vendors specifically targeting the business for new products, IT’s role in BI will change from that of traditional gatekeeper to useful helper. Mobile, Cloud, and Big Data applications are meaningless without IT modifications, which will come to focus more on product configuration and software development than issuing reports. IT will ultimately provide the means for the consumerization of BI for the enterprise by functioning as strategists who can grant business users’ fast-paced desires instead of prolonging the process of delivering much needed information.
Forbes contributor Ben Kepes emphasized the transformation of IT’s role in 2014 in regards to emerging BI applications:
“Applications that were hardwired with IT and Data Sources were designed for the few, rather than for the needs of the broad employee base. Applications that will deliver value into the future are those that bring context, processes and people together often to make data-driven decisions.”
Cloud environments should continue to have a significant impact on analytics and software-oriented architecture in general. Gartner predicts a future in which BI service providers are used as commonly as BI products. This prediction is supported by the notion that although Cloud BI adoption rates are relatively low, a number of service providers have emerged that enable users to perform analytics and queries via the Cloud.
One of the advantages of using such Cloud-based analytics options is that users are not saddled with hardware expenses associated with conventional analytics platforms. The lower costs and increased flexibility of the aforementioned method is projected to increase Cloud adoption for analytics, as is the fact that analytics can be performed expeditiously. Additionally, the increasing adoption rates for mobile technologies and mobile BI in particular should create a greater demand for Cloud analytics, as should the myriad options for personal, hybrid, and private Cloud services. The importance of the cloud for future analytics and IT is underscored in the following quotation in an article from Biztech2.com.
“In a world where mobile is the norm, and rich media content is a given, the cloud will come into its own as the only location where growing data volumes can be stored, accessed and analyzed on demand…Integrated cloud offerings will increasingly enable mashups of fixed and mobile networks; systems, ideas and solutions; people and things; and intelligence and information.”
Solidification of Mobile
There is an intrinsic relationship between mobile technologies, data discovery tools, and Cloud-based applications that are converging to make BI more accessible. Many vendors have dashboards and visualizations specifically for mobile applications, which may be used to access Cloud sources. Mobile devices play a substantial role in the consumerziation of IT and of BI in particular, as the plethora of smartphones and tablet devices indicates. Although adoption rates for mobile BI are still relatively low, the rates are growing faster for mobile than for other technologies. Forrester put mobile apps at the top of its Top Technology Trends to Watch : 2014 to 2016, while Gartner shows an increase of 42 percent adoption in 2013 alone, with reported use of mobile BI at 30 percent.
The application of mobile technology is slated to increase throughout the enterprise in general, with BI applications contributing significantly to this trend. Inhibiting factors preventing more widespread adoption of mobile technologies include policy management (and possibly governance concerns) related to the multitude of mobile devices employed, circumscribed device realty (which makes tablets so attractive), and lingering security concerns.
Expanding Analytics with Big Data
Some of the aforementioned Cloud-based analytics service providers enable users to find eminent relationships in their data at the volume, variety, and velocity that characterizes Big Data – which is not conventional analytics, but could well be what analytics is headed to (especially for Big Data) in the coming year and beyond. Big Data analytics is significantly more reliant on data sources due to the large sizes and swift speeds at which data is ingested. Thus, the aforementioned expansion of analytics, which will go beyond conventional querying to the discernment of salient trends or points of variation in data from trusted data sources facilitated by service providers, will increase in adoption. Gartner concludes that “Until 2016, service providers will benefit the most by closing the gap between available big data technology and business cases.”
Event-streamed data is the term for Big Data generated from sensors, instruments, and other monitoring systems that constantly produce data. Such data is frequently related to weather, global positioning, video monitoring, etc. Although sensor data is already used in industry specific applications such as oil mining or in retail stores via smartphones, the analytics and BI industry is preparing to make tools for such data more commonplace. At present the best option for analyzing sensor data is through Cloud-based providers that can generate data for specific events. The true value in event streaming data is in combining it with other data sources to gain a more comprehensive understanding of particular events. 2014 should see more conventional analytics product vendors developing offerings to compete with those of Cloud providers.
The coming year and beyond should bring an expansion of the roles and technologies used for BI and analytics. Of the former, IT and business users will switch places in terms of who is generating analysis and reports and gaining first-hand access to data. Technologies and products will be specifically shaped to suit the needs of the end user as opposed to IT middlemen. In interest of pursuing that goal, there will be a leveling of traditional BI and analytics platforms with the usage of service providers who issue cloud-based analytics on demand at a lower price and (possibly at a faster speed). Such service providers will be instrumental at deciphering analytics problems for Big Data, as the data industry begins the shift towards event-streaming data in earnest.