Innovation in the BI industry died about 30 years ago. Sure the colors and format may be different but what’s delivered to business users is exactly the same and that's a real problem. I think this is because the industry spends more time thinking about how to make a data analyst’s life easier rather than helping business users get the most value from their data.
If I was a business user, I’d be angry. The outputs of analytic software haven’t changed in decades. The tools look exactly the same, the dashboard looks the same and the outcomes you get from them are the same. Analytics is still a one-way communication tool - it's delivered to business people and they have to work it out from there. There's nothing that drives a user to actually make decisions or take action on their data. The only innovation has focused on analytic workflows and how you build content, which has improved the experience of the data analyst.
Why the innovation stopped
There are two reasons why I believe this has happened. First, vendors don’t want to alienate data analysts because they’re the gatekeepers in the purchasing process. Just like people who made buggies for horses weren't that thrilled by cars, data analysts aren’t going to be thrilled if a vendor makes them redundant.
Secondly, vendors in the industry are lazy. When we look at each phase of BI that has happened in the past few decades, each one has been driven by a transformational change in the underlying technology. We’ve moved from the desktop to the cloud or onto ERP systems. So BI vendors haven’t been forced to think differently, we just have to wait for a technology change that will cause disruption and drive people to buy another cycle of BI. That's what the industry has been living off.
With every release that I see from our competitors, it's focused on doing the same again. Qlik is very excited about its microservices but it won’t impact the business user. Power BI has just released its latest mobile app and it's just a dashboard on a phone. It's been done before and we know it doesn't sell, yet we persist in pretending that changing the colors is somehow going to make things different.
Time for an industry refocus
There will come a time when this merry-go-round will stop and vendors won’t win business just because buyers are upgrading their technology. When that happens, BI vendors are going to be forced to compete. Only then will there be a compelling need for vendors to bring a product to market that’s radically different so that customers continue to buy. In the meantime, business users continue to be frustrated by the solutions they’re offered because they don’t help them gain a competitive advantage from their data.
The industry will only change when it starts to think about the end to end process - where data comes from all the way to how a business user gets value from it. That's a big challenge and one that will bring about radical change in the industry and how it operates.
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