“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” – William Pollard
Change is afoot in BI. Not just the huge increase in demand for analytics, but in the way that BI is implemented and executed. 2017 will be the year when businesses of all sizes realise how critical BI and analytics are, and the year when technological advances fundamentally change the way analytics is delivered.
I’m not interested in the fads, but I have been looking out for the changes and trends that will give rise to innovation, creativity and improvement. Here’s my round-up of the biggest changes afoot in the BI and analytics industry. Now it’s up to all of us as the experts to stay ahead of, and even initiate, the change so we have the greatest advantage when it comes to managing it.
1. Self-service BI: Not All It Seems
The idea of self-service BI isn’t new, but I believe the debate over this idea will come to a head. Will we see the explosive growth, or the death, of self-service in 2017? Experts conflict over whether it is about to take off or see the last nail in its coffin by the time the year is out.
On the surface, empowering business users to do their own data discovery and analytics seems the way forward. This demands that BI tools focus on becoming simple and easy to use while analysts provide users with a little basic training so to help them find what they want when they want it. No more heavy reliance on analysts or IT to do the work for them costing time, money and expertise. So surely self-service helps everyone, right?
Well, perhaps it isn’t all it seems on the surface. Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin, has declared we will see the demise of self-service in 2017. First, if business users can use and manipulate the data as they want, this brings up major data governance and security issues. And that gives rise to inaccurate data and erroneous reports. Also, many business users don’t want to add the data analyst’s job to their already busy work load. They just want accurate, trustworthy reports at their fingertips. With self-service BI, I’m reckoning that it’ll be its own worst enemy – producing results that aren’t trustworthy, resulting in consistently low BI adoption rates.
2. Ramping Up the Governance of Data Discovery
In response to self-service BI, enterprises will become acutely aware of the need for data governance and accuracy and wary of allowing business users handle data as they like. So, governed data discovery will be another top focus of organizations using BI tools to redress the balance of accurate data versus speedy self-service.
Business users need information about patterns and trends within their data. They could find it themselves, but without thorough training and a significant amount of practice (both of which will cost businesses time and money), it’s difficult to know if the results they produce are founded on accurate calculations. Therefore, IT will need to take back control with data discovery governance to reinstate trust and reliability into the analytics.
To do this will require solid security at the core of BI tools to ensure access is given to only those who are trained in handling data and building reports. As self-service trends risk data accuracy, BI providers will need to focus their efforts on ensuring their tools meet the new demands of a shorter time-to-insight window while maintaining governed oversight.
With clean data and centralized data sources, business users will be more inclined to use analytics because they know it can be trusted.
3. Goodbye, Email. Hello, Collaboration.
A cornerstone in facilitating the balance between faster time-to-insight and maintaining data accuracy is collaboration between business users and analysts.
Business users want answers fast. But if the analytics doesn’t provide the answer, sending screenshots and a long chain of emails is the last thing users want to do to get the problem fixed. By the time their question gets seen, it could be irrelevant anyway. But with known issues going unanswered, trust in the data declines.
Data analysts need to have complete clarity on what is being requested, and users want to get answers fast. And there’s no better place than inside the application. BI vendors will need to look at ways of facilitating collaboration where the data is – in the software. Endless email chains or receiving requests from multiple channels is no longer acceptable.
Collaboration will speed up processes, minimize the need for DIY analytics and maintain data trustworthiness. We will then see the expected window for time-to-insight rapidly decrease and a greater use of BI.
4. Forecast: Cloudy
Another trend that looks set to increase is the use of the cloud. The need for organizations to reduce costs and make reporting and analytics more pervasive is already causing enterprises to move their BI, and even their data sources, to the cloud. This is only going to accelerate as more businesses turn to analytics and look to utilize the flexibility of the cloud that also reduces the cost of BI ownership.
Having no large, onsite infrastructure keeps businesses flexible. And in this age of agility, this is a compelling argument for moving data and analytics to the cloud. This trend is also providing an updraft for SaaS BI implementations. They are becoming increasingly popular options and we will see more BI vendors offering solutions exclusively in the cloud.
5. The Rise of Embedded BI, Boosted by the IoT
Now people have caught the bug for analytics, they want analytics on everything from personal fitness to the applications used across their businesses. So, both consumer and business industries will be embedding BI into their software, websites and applications to keep up with the demand for data visualization. This is the rise of analytics anywhere.
BI vendors need to be agile enough to seamlessly embed their analytics into any third-party software to capture the potential of this expanding market – a market that is boosted by the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Not only will business users and analysts be able to analyze and report on just about any application, there will be increased demand for the integration of all the analytics on one platform. The rise of the IoT will only serve to highlight this need as consumers are flooded with data.
Bonus Prediction: Natural Language Search and AI in BI
Natural language search is nothing new – it’s the idea that you can request information from a computer just like you were chatting to a real human. We have got used to asking Siri and Cortana questions rather than typing in keywords – “What’s the height of the world’s tallest building?” versus “World’s tallest building height”. Natural language processing requires artificial intelligence (AI) to dissect human language, and it could be set to become a fundamental part of your BI platform soon.
BI developers are looking at how they can use natural language search capabilities in their products. Imagine business users being able to type in “By what percentage did we miss our targeted profit margins in Q1 2016?” and then see your BI tool bring up the exact report you need! It’s a hot new area of research in BI.
There is plenty to be excited about in BI in 2017 as the landscape changes. And who knows, we might even see beta releases of what could prove to be revolutionary technology.
Find out which trends leading analysts are watching in BARC’s BI Trends Monitor 2017.