Year in review: Top 9 Business Intelligence developments of 2011 (PI)

Inexorable and unrelenting. These words encapsulate the collective year that was in Business Intelligence (BI). The constant interaction between marketplace and vendor, each hurtling towards the other at increasing speed, was reminiscent of The Joker’s infamous line in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight – “An unstoppable force meets an immoveable object”. Although, the fast-paced progression of 2011’s BI market delivered markedly more buoyant viewing than the latest installment of the Batman saga.

So, strap yourself into your dark, metallic and oh-so-ridiculous vehicle of choice, as we dissect all the major elements of anarchy – the Joker’s, Penguin’s and Riddler’s – in BI city’s year that was.

1. Self-service BI was out to get us all…

Seemingly chasing everyone down the dank and dark backstreets of BI city was the ever-prevalent concept of self-service. Also discussed under the banner of ‘gamification’, the consumerization of BI – the emergence of consumer-oriented features and functionality to support ease-of-use and independent data analysis by non-technical business-users – captured the aspirations and endeavors of vendors. Independent research firm, Gartner, helped drive the intensification of this trend, stating that consumerization, and resultant increase in user-adoption, had the potential to deliver organizations better BI Return on Investment (ROI).

"The consumerization of BI technology offers a means for it to break out and reach many more users, by offering faster, more user-friendly and more relevant BI,” said James Richardson, research director at Gartner.

"The fact of the matter is that BI is not pervasive and adoption is not in line with the investment made by most firms,” said Richardson. “Almost every organization could improve, if its stakeholders had easier access to well-integrated information, and if they analyzed that information to manage performance and make decisions."

Gartner listed the three key BI product-oriented factors for sustained user adoption as:

  • Ease of use: If BI is difficult to learn, use, maintain or simply looks unappealing, significant user drop-off will result
  • Performance: If query response times are slow, report production/building arduous, end-users will stop using the BI tool
  • Relevance: If the BI platform does not present relevant information to the right users, in an easily understandable and consumable format, then frustration and abandonment will occur

“A failure in any one of these areas can be the cause of poor take-up, and goes some way toward explaining why just 28 percent of users have adopted the organization’s standard BI platform of choice," said Richardson.

“Ensuring a better match to end-user needs [will enable] a greater Return on Investment in BI.”

2011 was the first year in which Gartner’s famed BI Magic Quadrant listed ease-of-use as the number one selection criteria for organizations to consider when purchasing a BI application.

TDWI best practices report – Self-Service Business Intelligence: Empowering Users to Generate Insights – supports this view, arguing that: “Access to BI is what gives companies their competitive edge and allows them to discover new business opportunities.” The report simultaneously laments the fact that “in too many organizations, decisions are still not based on business intelligence because of the inability to keep up with demand for information and analytics.”

2. Mobile BI struck again, and again, and…

Much of the hype surrounding Mobile BI over the previous 24 months turned into action in 2011, with a further corresponding increase in planned Mobile BI implementations for 2012. According to Dresner Advisory Services’ (DAS) October 2011 Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study, organizations are now placing increasingly importance on Mobile BI as a delivery mechanism for corporate data assets.

Sixty-eight percent of survey participants listed Mobile BI as ‘critical’ or ‘very important’, compared to 52 percent from the original 2010 study. The number of respondents listing Mobile BI as ‘unimportant’ dropped from 11 to two percent over the same period. Seventy-five percent of respondents to the October 2011 version stated that 21 – 81 percent of BI users within their organization will consume reporting and analytics exclusively via mobile devices by 2013.

Report author, Howard Dresner, suggested that Mobile BI is now set to revolutionize the way people use and consume business information: “This latest findings report shows strong evidence that Mobile BI is taking hold – broadly,” said Dresner. “We believe that we’re in the midst of a profound shift toward Mobile BI (and mobile computing). We believe this paradigm shift will affect everyone and have as much impact as the Internet did, over time.”

Gartner’s recent Gartner Predicts 2011 report backs these findings, suggesting that “By 2013, 33 percent of BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices.”

The tablet revolution
Gartner stated that the emergence of tablets as a business device has provided an ideal platform for the delivery and dissemination of business analytics and dashboard reports.

In a special report providing advice for CIOs on best practice usage and integration of tablets into the workplace, Gartner said that whilst tablets were not ‘better’ than laptops or smartphones, they complemented existing technologies by offering unique features for the delivery, consumption and analysis of corporate information.

Renowned Forrester Research analyst, Boris Evelson, colorfully conveyed his parallel opinion that tablet PCs have swung the door to Mobile BI wide open, stating in his now infamous blog post – Mobile Tablet PCs, Not Phones, Will Create Critical Mass for Enterprise BI Adoption – that “Just like Baby Bear’s porridge in the Goldilocks and The Three Bears fairy tale, tablet PCs are ‘just right’ for mobile BI end users.”

IDC’s European business analytics program manager, Alys Woodward, has also said that consuming BI via tablet computers will empower organizations to realize pervasive BI adoption and BI ROI.

Speaking at IDC’s Business Intelligence Conference 2011, Woodward suggested that the natural interactivity and uninhibited functionality (large screen), in conjunction with their portability, made tablets “the answer to BI execution in business”.

iPad domination
Twenty-eight percent of respondents to DAS’ inaugural June 2010 Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study named the iPad as their first choice device for the delivery of mobile analytics. The latest results show that almost 55 percent of organizations now list the iPad as their favored platform for Mobile BI rollouts.

In the initial 2010 study, just 16 percent of respondents were actually using the iPad to satisfy their mobile reporting and analytics needs. However, a whopping 44 percent planned on instigating iPad driven initiatives. And, somewhat surprisingly, all these plans appear to have come to fruition, with 61 percent of 2011 survey contributors stating that their organizations have established iPad-oriented Mobile BI programs. Furthermore, an additional 21 percent of respondents said they planned on deploying Mobile BI projects on the iPad within the next 12 months. iPad-based Mobile BI implementations have proved the most widely deployed during the last year, and seem set to enjoy strong and continued growth over the ensuing 12 months.

Recent IDC figures on tablet shipments confirm the iPad’s dominance. The iPad held 68.3 percent (shipping 9.3 million units) of the global tablet market during Q2 2011, with the IDC citing strong demand for the iPad 2 for the 88.9 percent (303.8 percent year-over-year) rise in worldwide media tablet shipments. The unprecedented growth prompted the firm to increase its 2011 shipment forest from 53.5 to 62.5 million units.

Apple CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, claimed in Q4 2011 that the iPad enjoyed almost complete penetration across the Fortune 500.

And, to emphasize the potential scope for Mobile BI in general, Forrester Research reports that “enterprise mobile workers will make up 73 percent of the workforce in 2012”.

3. Collaborative BI was on all our minds. Or was it? Discuss…

Collaborative decision-making (CDM) modules, or Collaborative BI, held the BI market captive for much of 2011. CDM software, and the concept of Collaborative BI, is about harnessing and applying the functions and features of social media to the enterprise to enable better CDM processes and bridge the gap between insight and action. The collaborative conversation built and intensified towards Close of Business 2011, and one can assume this trending topic – a debate and technical capability perhaps 18 months behind Mobile BI – will blossom into a must-have check-list item in 2012.

Analyst and industry thought leader, Wayne Eckerson, believes that Collaborative BI is set to go from a niche-nice-to-have feature, to an industry-defining component of leading BI solutions:

The Aberdeen Group’s recent report on Collaborative BI – Collaborative BI: Harnessing the Extended Enterprise to Boost Productivity – claims Collaborative BI deployments have the ability to improve productivity and visibility across the breadth of organizational operations via enhanced knowledge sharing.

The research report divides respondent organizations into three categories based on the maturity of their Collaborative BI rollouts:

  • Best-in-Class (Top 20% of aggregate performance scorers)
  • Industry Average (Middle 50% of aggregate performance scorers)
  • Laggard (Bottom 30% of aggregate performance scorers)

The report identified several significant benefits of Collaborative BI, including:

  • Improved customer responsiveness (73% of Best-in-Class organizations said that Collaborative BI had “improved” or “substantially improved” customer responsiveness over the previous 12 months, compared with 64% for the Industry Average and 42% for Laggards)
  • Improved business process cycle times (71% of Best-in-Class organizations reported a “substantially improved” or “improved” timeframe to complete key business processes, compared to 55% of Industry Average organizations and 37% of Laggard companies)
  • Improved cross-functional collaboration (80% of Best-in-Class companies have “improved” or “substantially improved” cross-functional collaboration over the two years post-implementation, compared to 63% of Industry Average organizations and 38% for Laggards)
  • Improved external stakeholder collaboration (78% of respondents from Best-in-Class organizations report using their company’s Collaborative BI capabilities to share information and ideas with at least one external stakeholder, compared to 64% of respondents from Industry Average organizations, and just 31% of survey participants from Laggards)
  • Improved employee retention rates (Best-in-Class organizations report an impressive 95% employee retention rate over the previous year, with companies classified within the Industry Average bracket reporting an 88% retention rate, and 81% for Laggards)
  • Improved customer retention rates (Best-in-Class organizations experienced a 97% employee retention rate over the previous 12 months, compared to 91% for Industry Average companies, and 69% for Laggards)

Where to next?

Tune in for parts two and three of this three-part exploration of 2011s defining BI developments. Then, hang about to see what this year’s influential BI elements will be in Yellowfin’s top ten BI predictions for 2012.

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