RESEARCH & RESOURCES

BI Resilient in 2011; Mobility, SMBs, Services to Highlight 2012

BI popularity continued, and BI in the cloud and data aggregation took center stage this year. We look at what BI professionals might expect in 2012.

By Marty Carney, Chief Executive Officer, WCI Consulting

It’s a dynamic time in the business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA) industry, full of new challenges and exciting opportunities.

From the seemingly daunting yet nebulous “Big Data” to the potentially limitless applications for smartphones and tablets, BI is poised for a significant step in its evolution -- with the potential to impact everyone in some way, shape or form.

As we move into 2012, we look back at some of the primary trends we witnessed this year and explore the possibilities for next year -- and beyond.

2011 BI Trends

2011 Trend #1: BI still strong in tough economic times

Customer spending on business intelligence and analytics initiatives remained strong despite uncertain economic conditions.

Companies of all sizes have become sharply attuned to their businesses and their data, so events such as the European financial crisis and fears of a double-dip recession didn’t, and likely won’t, slow the need for those organizations to understand their data and turn it into actionable information.

Smaller companies in particular benefit from business intelligence in tough economic environments because BI and BA solutions help counter inefficiencies created by cumbersome manual data analysis processes -- and thus provide a competitive edge and reduce costs.

2011 Trend #2: Data aggregators emerged

One specific segment that hasn’t felt recession problems is data aggregation. New data aggregators seem to pop up everywhere, and many are constantly growing through mergers and acquisitions.

These companies have shown their ability to collect enormous amounts of personal and business data and provide that information to other companies and government organizations.

Aggregators have turned to BI and BA providers to develop tools that quickly and effectively analyze and visualize their data and turn it into a valuable information source. These tools transform data aggregation from simply tracking a person’s activities to forecasting what they’ll do next based on historical information (including where they shop, what they buy, and other daily habits).

Naturally, data aggregation has raised privacy questions that will need to be addressed over the coming years by lawmakers.

2011 Trend #3: BI in the cloud gained clout

BI in the cloud has gained traction -- and clout -- in 2011. As more data and applications migrate to the cloud, numerous new data sources are being created.

BI and BA providers are adapting their tools to this new reality, and they’re being met by companies that are quick to respond to this trend and are willing to take on any potential risks.

Overall, though, although most businesses know about the cloud and understand its benefits, few people are actually using it in day-to-day operations.

Scalability, ease of entry, and low subscription-based costs are attractive to most companies. Who wouldn’t want their business information easily and conveniently accessible anywhere -- as long as an Internet connection is available -- while only paying for the amount of service used?

The rub for many companies, though, has been security, data movement outside their four walls, and the fact that the cloud still remains an emerging technology.

Despite those concerns, expect cloud adoption to grow next year in the BI industry as security improves and companies recognize its undeniable and very real value.

2012 Trends

The trends we’ve seen in 2011 will likely roll over to 2012 as well, and will give way to several new BI initiatives as new business intelligence and analytics tools emerge and evolve.

2012 Prediction #1: BI will grow among SMBs

In 2012, BI and BA will take a bigger step out of the realm of large enterprises and into the small- and medium-sized business arena.

To effectively compete against larger companies, SMBs have to provide a level of service that meets or exceeds its competition. These organizations often lack the employee bandwidth to quickly turn their data -- gathered from an increasing number of sources -- into actionable information.

As they reach the point where true BI is needed, SMBs will turn to business intelligence solutions that can be quickly implemented and produce rapid results. Cloud-based BI tools will be a driving factor in this trend, offering lower costs, decreased entry barriers, and quick deployment.

The primary challenge with SMBs is educating and convincing their C-level decision makers that affordable BI tools are available and quickly accessible to them. The truth is that most BI product vendors aren’t simply providing “Mercedes-level” offerings and pricing structures anymore. They’re selling “Volkswagens” as well – which means they can get good, quality offerings at lower costs.

2012 Prediction #2: Mobile BI popularity will grow

Mobile BI will remain an important industry trend in 2012. The availability and adoption of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices continues to explode, with no near-term signs of slowing down.

These devices are rapidly creating new and untapped data streams that companies must identify and leverage to their advantage. Business intelligence tools will play a vital role in aggregating, analyzing, and reporting these information sources.

Mobile devices will also continue to provide a faster, more convenient means to access and interact with vital business intelligence reports, leading to more timely decision making anytime, anywhere.

2012 Prediction #3: Growth of BI services will optimize BI product adoption

Buying a BI tool or dashboard and allowing those systems to essentially run on autopilot is no longer a luxury. Companies are realizing a need to deploy industry best practices that increase BI product knowledge and adoption.

Thus, the growth of BI services will continue expanding in 2012. The ideal service provider will offer some form of a “knowledge desk” that helps end users of BI tools receive critical instruction from experienced BI consultants at the point-of-need, resulting in decreased costs and headaches associated with inaccurate deliverables.

Conclusion

Business intelligence is at an unprecedented point in its evolution as new data sources emerge from all corners of business and society. The companies that can analyze and respond fastest to their data will create a true competitive advantage in this information age -- and ultimately win.

Marty Carney is chief executive officer for WCI Consulting, a Dallas-based business intelligence firm. He can be reached at mcarney@wciconsulting.com

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