RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Business Intelligence 2010: Evolving to Meet Demands of the Changing Business Landscape

We look at four emerging trends that will become prevalent as the year unfolds.

By Anil R. Chitkara

The economic recession has put an increased focus on the need for business intelligence (BI), and a heightened awareness of the timeframes and costs it has taken to get it deployed. In a recent CIO study by IBM, The New Voice of the CIO, 83% of respondents cited business intelligence and analytics as the top response to the question: “What kind of visionary plans do you have for enhanced competitiveness?” As BI continues to be a high priority and IT organizations have found their resources and budgets cut this past year, companies have turned to innovative approaches in the market to address their needs.

BI vendors have used the economic situation as an opportunity to meet customers’ needs for new, value-focused solutions. Innovative companies honed their offerings by picking off the problem areas of traditional BI approaches and providing focused products to the market. New technologies and approaches have led to dramatically faster BI deployments using fewer internal IT resources and delivering more value to the business user community. CIOs, IT organizations, and BI professionals are looking beyond “cool technology” to the impact products can have on their businesses and the return relative to their investment.

As we look toward 2010, there are key trends on the horizon that may become prevalent as the year unfolds. We have identified four emerging trends for 2010, driven in part by the constraints and opportunities of the past year.

Actionable Analytics for All

Many companies have put BI reporting in the hands of many users. This has provided insight into what has happened but hasn’t yielded much in terms of what to do about it. Predictive analytics provides insight into what to do but is traditionally only available to a few power users. In 2010, companies will put the predictive analytical insight into the hands of many, so they not only understand what has happened, but see what actions to take . These analytics will incorporate a mix of financial and operational data, include both historical and forward-looking information, and provide action-oriented suggestions.

For example, if customer satisfaction scores are declining, what specific operational deficiencies are causing the decline, and is it related to certain customers, regions, or customer support teams? Arming the front-line customer teams with a more complete and insightful picture empowers them to affect performance.

Customer cross-selling opportunities provide another example. If a customer has a lower share of wallet than its peer group, account representatives need to understand what specific products or services to cross sell based on the customer’s market segment, the needs it might have, and the products that are selling best. These analytical capabilities should move from the desktop of analysts and power users to the hands of all those on the front line.

Expertise for Expediency

Companies are looking to deploy business intelligence much faster than they have in the past. Vendors are responding by making a significant investment in packaging technologies, expertise, and experience into products and services.

This trend will continue in 2010, as best-of-breed companies continue to offer industry or functional niche solutions to support specific business processes (e.g., customer analytics to improve selling), and large companies package functionality and provide accelerators to shorten deployment timeframes. These may come in the form of prescriptive metrics and analytics, pre-built industry or functional data models, or adapters to connect to specific data-source systems, all of which can be leveraged by BI professionals as a starting point for their own deployments.

Business Unit as the Optimal BI Unit

BI has long been discussed in the context of the enterprise. Enterprise reporting or enterprise BI has generated countless BI road maps and has been pushed by BI vendors for many years. Tackling BI for the enterprise is a difficult proposition from the start, generating the widely cited estimates of high BI failure rates. It is simply not feasible to try to gain alignment around such a broad set of data with a diverse and often conflicting set of business rules for a myriad of products, customers, and business situations across multiple business units and functions operating globally. An optimal unit of deployment for BI is a single, cohesive global unit with major functional areas.

In 2010, we will see more focus placed on implementing BI at the business unit level to ensure a rapid, successful deployment that generates value, and provides a building block for expansion to other areas of the company. This allows the implementation team to align with business rules and metrics, integrate the required data and assure accuracy and quality, and provide functionality that meets users’ needs. Aligning business rules and data at the business unit level will become more prevalent as it is a more manageable and effective approach to BI, yet it has a significant impact on performance across the business.

Technology Innovations Go Up Market

There has been an enormous amount of innovation recently around the confluence of business applications and technology. Cloud computing, software-as-a-service, open source, and appliances have all been applied to business intelligence. Each is breaking down a set of structural challenges that traditional, large-scale enterprise BI systems encounter when deployed. These challenges include: the typical cost and timeframes for a deployment, the internal IT resources required to install and maintain systems, the success (or failure) in meeting business users’ needs, and the price/performance equation.

As these technologies have matured, large global companies are adopting them for their own competitive advantage. GE’s widespread use of Aravo’s SaaS solution and Amazon Web Services recent SAS 70 Type II certification are leading indicators of large enterprises’ adoption of these new technologies. In 2010, we can look toward a growing number of large, leading companies across many industries adopting these innovative technologies to address their BI challenges.

Summary

Business intelligence covers many types of technologies, capabilities, and deployment models. As we move into the new year, enlightened IT and business intelligence leaders will continue to take a more business-focused approach to their BI investments by deploying new, targeted solutions that deliver the right capabilities to meet the needs of specific user groups. These leaders will continue to take advantage of technology innovations that have grown out of necessity, to address targeted business needs that fit a new economic and business landscape.

Anil R. Chitkara is senior vice president of Oco, Inc., a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider of business intelligence and analytics solutions. He can be reached at achitkara@oco-inc.com

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