Business Intelligence.

Trends for 2012.

What's in store for BI this year?

2012 is shaping up to be another big year for the business intelligence (BI) community. Let's start this year by taking a look ahead to see what trends are going have an impact on the way we do business.

Here's our prediction for the top 5 trends for business intelligence in 2012:

5. Pervasive Business Intelligence and Data Democracy

In a recent survey, Information Week found that for businesses that had adopted a BI tool, only 25% of employees in those businesses had access to that tool. Expect this trend to change over the course of the next few years as organizations begin adopting cloud and mobile BI dashboards. Certainly in some respects, traditional BI tools have been too bulky and technical for that other 75% of employees to use, rather than being a case of not needing that information (see #3 Self-serve BI).

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The common thread throughout the trends listed here is the idea that business intelligence is heading towards simpler, more straightforward methods and tools. The way organizations are using BI tools is changing to provide people throughout the organization with access to KPIs (key performance indicators), not just limiting it to end of month meetings in a boardroom. And that's a good thing, because every job has some degree of decision making associated with it. Consider the warehouse worker wasting time looking for an out of stock item when they could simply check their business dashboard and save time and money.

4. Operational or Tactical Business Intelligence

According to Gartner, operational or tactical business intelligence (BI) is growing at a rate of 13% CAGR. That's an impressive number, especially when one considers that analytical or traditional BI tools are growing at a rate of 9% CAGR. This is the result of tandem developments in BI over the last few years. Increased adoption of agile BI tools like cloud and mobile BI encourage individuals to access their KPI dashboards more often. Daily performance metrics — the ones more likely to fluctuate on an hourly basis — are much more relevant to mobile users because they can use that information in a constructive, actionable way. As mentioned above, pervasive BI is also influencing this shift towards operational BI, since analytical BI is more often used by decision makers like executives.

An operational dashboard works much like a car's dashboard. As you drive, you monitor metrics that indicate the current performance of your vehicle and make adjustments accordingly. When the speed-limit changes, you check your speedometer and slow down, or when you see you are out of gas you pull over and fill-up. Likewise, an operational dashboard allows you to make tactical decisions based on current performance, whether it is chasing a red-hot lead or ordering an out-of-stock product.

3. Simplicity and Self-Serve Business Intelligence

Self-serve business intelligence (BI) is about simplicity. In turn, simplicity is about accomplishing your goals without being completely taxed from the effort. The reason self-serve BI is so attractive — and why it is projected to increase throughout 2012 — is that it offers end-users the ability to apply their knowledge of what metrics and ratios matter, and share this expertise by building dashboards without IT support. As more organizations demand self-serve and user-friendly BI tools, vendors will need to continue (or start!) to work on putting non-technical users in the driver's seat of their BI dashboards.

One of the most frequently touted promises of providing simpler, more self-serve oriented BI tools is the dramatic reduction of IT involvement. Whether that goal is attainable or not is irrelevant. The important thing is that in attempting to reach that goal, BI tools will evolve to be more user-friendly and will encourage everyone to start monitoring important metrics and KPIs (see #5. Pervasive BI and Data Democracy).

2. Cloud Hosted Business Intelligence Solutions

Cloud business intelligence (BI) tools are becoming more popular each passing year. As vendors continue to develop better tools, business units forge ahead and capitalize on the simplicity of deploying their BI tools in the cloud. According to a June 2011 survey by the BI Leadership Forum, more than one-third of organizations have a cloud-based BI tool. Even more telling, is that 65% of those organizations are planning to increase their use of cloud BI in the next 12 months. These statistics are a promising indicator of what many analysts and vendors have been predicting for the last few years — increased adoption of cloud-based BI solutions.

Throughout 2012, expect to see the adoption of cloud BI tools to be driven by a number of important factors. First, cloud-based solutions offer the advantage of being relatively simple and convenient to deploy. Second, cloud tools are more easily scalable to provide access to key performance indicators (KPIs) to everyone in your organization, no matter where they are or what device they are using. This in turn fuels pervasive BI and improves decision making across the organization. Lastly, continually improving security measures will put to rest any reservations businesses have with storing their sensitive data in the cloud.

1. Mobile Business Intelligence and Accessibility

Mobile business intelligence (BI) tools have long been touted as the future of BI and for good reason. In a revealing survey conducted by Gartner, it was found that by 2013 one-third of all BI usage will be on a mobile device, such as a smart-phone or tablet. This is a remarkable figure that points to another year where mobile BI adoption continues to chip away at desktop-only solutions. In part, the changing dynamic of many work-places is fueling adoption of mobile BI. This was reflected in a recent survey conducted by the Business Application Research Center, which found that while adoption is currently at about 8%, over the next 12 months 30% of respondents planned to deploy a mobile BI tool. Gartner is reporting mobile BI to be growing at a staggering 40% CAGR.

This trend is easy to tie in with the 4 preceding predictions in this article. Mobile BI is increasingly being seen as a tool for providing on-the-go workers with access to KPIs — imagine a warehouse worker knowing the exact amount of stock, or a sales rep able to monitor territorial performance while away from the office at a tradeshow. Operational BI and mobile tools synergize to create an environment where performance can be managed effectively and from any location. By necessity, organizations deploying and vendors developing mobile BI tools need to consider the implications of working in a remote environment. In other words, a traditional BI dashboard laden with juicy KPIs just doesn't translate from the desktop to a mobile phone in a way that is user friendly.

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