IT Trends and the effect on Business Intelligence

Mike Hollidge Uncategorized

We’d like to take a whistle stop tour around some of the disruptive trends in IT that are having a profound effect on your Business Intelligence Planning.

Cloud – The benefits of a good Business Intelligence solution is that it can steer a business, but new deployment options such as cloud present an initial challenge, especially if you need to continue to leverage your traditional on premise investments in certain applications. When your data resides in the cloud, it makes sense to similarly deploy your Business Intelligence and analytics platform in the cloud – but what if some data resides in the cloud and some remains on premises?

The newer Cloud Business Intelligence solutions enable the management of data from both cloud and on premise applications equally but their accessibility and availability can be considerably enhanced by using a data warehouse to “single-locate” the information in preparation for surfacing into reports.

Cloud pricing and licensing options have settled more recently allowing for greater flexibility now than ever before. In theory, a cloud hosted BI solution should make your data more accessible than ever before, however, a cautionary note, some vendors have locked down your data in the cloud making it difficult to access and generate the KPIs you need to run your business.

Business intelligence and cloud should be a match made in heaven, as BI delivers the information to the user at the right time, place and in a meaningful format, while cloud should make it increasingly accessible in terms of device independent on a web browser rather than being application and location dependent. Cloud brings other inherent advantages such as scalability, resilience and relative speed of deployment. This all adds up to a significant potential improvement using cloud BI so that enterprise strategies need to have this on their roadmap as it will provide their end users with distinct advantages with access to business-critical data anytime, anyplace, anywhere in a manner that will bring insight and intelligence.

Mobile – The drive for mobile Business Intelligence follows other patterns; to increase efficiency on the move. The need and desire to present Business Intelligence analysis on mobile devices has been explosive, but could also be corrosive as effective decision making may require a view of present, historical, real-time and trend data and there is the basic simple problem – how do you get all that on the small screen?

Right now, mobile Business Intelligence adoption is still behind the curve compared with other enterprise mobile applications. New ways need to be found of delivering and publishing the information on a small screen device that take advantage of the benefits of mobile such as wireless, touchscreen, location awareness and device interaction.

Feature rich tools like Pyramid BI Office can provide both configurable ‘Exception reporting’ for deployment through visualisation tools and document publications when your key business metrics require attention. Both methods are ideal for mobile platforms where a smaller display of information, with the key metrics is a fundamental requirement. These are a “light-approach” for mobile which easily, graphically displays the key metrics. However, the reality is that some data simply doesn’t lend itself to mobile reporting and the end result is a “dumbing down” of the Business Intelligence reporting to accommodate mobile.

Infrastructure as a Service – For those who have adopted IaaS there are considerations around security, user access, restrictions, internal governance, auditing, optimising and disaster recovery. A step change is required to accommodate and govern the changes required to transform these processes to the cloud and a good data governance strategy around data management and thereby access to BI, comes out strongly as “Best Practice”. Data Governance is a subject we have discussed at length, with a 3-part blog series available here along with an archive of other articles.

Self-Service – this is a trend that crosses the barriers of applications and functions as this trend is found in many areas from ecommerce, web development, customer service, business intelligence and reporting. Self-service applications that give access to data basically democratise that data; giving more individuals the power to analyse and comprehend the intelligence it provides. However, with that opportunity, comes risk and the need to secure the information.

Two security challenges need to be addressed here; firstly the physical need to secure data from leakage or attack as it is accessible to more individuals, and secondly, the necessity that access to data sources does not allow for the re-submission of polluted data into those data sources.

Gartner estimates that by 2018 20% of organizations will be looking to develop data security governance plans to protect themselves from data breaches on the cloud. Those that fail to do so will likely encounter damaging security breaches and the subsequent fallout. However, there needs to be a more integrated approach that covers not just the physical risks but also maintaining the integrity of the data and this is where a data warehouse is an essential tool in the business intelligence toolkit. Alongside self-service for data access there needs to be a sound data governance strategy that includes a data warehouse. BI and big data have enormous potential for improving the quality of decisions and strategies. Companies that leverage self-service tools to collect and present their data to all members of the team will increase the number of informed decision makers and will likely see an increase in operational efficiency and business performance. But with the caveat of data integrity and data security under governance.

Dashboards – These have been “on-trend” for some time – the ability to work with highly interactive dashboards which provide a visual explosion; embedding links that drill down to an advanced analytical level. What’s new is the array of visualization options that go beyond those of basic pie, bar and line charts to include heat and tree maps, geographic maps, scatter plots and other special-purpose visuals. All of this is available without the user having to build models or extract the data, but they can be seen in a way that is relevant to the user, visually represented by role-based rules using a solution like Pyramid BI Office. This is where “social” creeps in as communication tools at this level now enable the users to discuss, chat, annotate and collaborate with the information provided on the dashboard.

Technology trends continue to push forever forward and Business Intelligence is keeping pace, provided the solution set includes a data warehouse for single locating and pooling data as this can then provide a single version of the truth and provide the insight for businesses to be able to react, adapt and spot opportunities.

Andrew Mennie – Precision Point