Posted by Peder Enhorning
June 5, 2013
The assumption is that the Big Data is usable, but often it isn’t. Many collection systems are installed with little regard for what the business drivers are and so may not be gathering the necessary information for sound business decisions. Data collected may be incomplete or just plain wrong.
For example, there’s no point in trying to analyze the full customer experience if customer ID’s are different in various systems. You may have all the data in various places, but not the identifying connections to understand a single customer’s responses to campaigns, online behaviour, offline purchases and complaints to fully establish customer behaviour. Or you may be collecting user information but neglected to have implemented proper tracking to know what campaigns caused those prospects to convert into customers. There may be lots of data but critical pieces could be missing to complete the story.
Part of the complexity is the range of data and tying it all together. Big data is not only that we are collecting more; it’s that we are collecting from more sources. Ten years ago a chair manufacturer would likely have focused on just three data points: how many chairs did his plant produce, how many did they sell and how much money was made from that production. However, today that manufacturer needs to include a much broader set of inputs including customer satisfaction measured by social networks, web traffic, customer loyalties based on buying patterns, etc. All of this information needs to be analyzed and delivered in a single, cohesive view and not as is usually the case, in disparate relational databases which may be difficult to access.
The hope is that more people will actually start using the data, rather than just collecting and storing it. The rise in volume (amount of data), velocity (speed of data) and variety (range of data) has switched the focus to making sense of it all.
The challenge is that Big Data, as opposed to its name, is really many amounts of small data ranging from tweets and sales reports to mail messages. Look for technology solutions that provide ad-hoc solutions, including in-memory analytics, direct access to column store databases and performance improvements.
Business Intelligence (BI) was once the field of a limited number of expert users who controlled very expensive corporate tools. But that bottleneck will no longer continue. Instead, self-service BI, providing employees with an environment where they can access the data directly to answer their own questions and on their schedule, will become the norm.
BI has now become part of our daily work. With this comes the increased need to create insight on the fly instead of through the reliance of IT. More and more BI users are taking over tasks that traditionally were the field of IT developers.
Part of this push is a result of easier to use BI tools which don’t require complex implementations or the learning curve demanded by traditional enterprise systems. This trend is going to speed up, and IT needs to be ready.
Business users are expecting BI tools that search all available data (structured and unstructured, internal and external) to quickly find answers. Navigation through the results will reveal patterns and trends will be improved with advanced visualizations. The result is consumerization of enterprise BI and self-service.
Look for technology that puts the power of BI in the hands of business users because they are coming to expect that they can modify and create reports as needed. They know the questions to ask, so let them. When they can’t, their frustration with existing tools will lead to change in their organizations.
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. The study reports mobile BI to be growing at a staggering 40%. These remarkable figures point to another year where mobile BI adoption continues to chip away at desktop-only solutions.
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 through his phone, or a sales rep able to monitor territorial performance while away from the office at a tradeshow.
Apple claimed that 92% of the Fortune 500 would be testing or deploying iPads in 2012 and that trend will continue. BI users want to access their data anytime and anywhere! This puts a demand on the frontend systems where information access and visualization are key. Increasingly that means mobile. But for BI applications, it is unlikely that smartphones will have the same impact as tablets due to the inherent screen size. Visualization and interactivity are improved with a larger screen size and on-board storage, which will allow users to do more with applications and will fuel its adoption.
IT departments have traditionally had a problem supporting multiple devices and formats, and this is going to remain a challenge in the foreseeable future. Along with the growth in potential for mobile in the BI arena, comes the complexity associated with BYOD (bring your own device) in the enterprise.
The BYOD trend is inevitable because users want a choice in devices, while enterprises see BYOD as a saving on procurement costs. However, organizations deploying and vendors developing mobile BI tools need to consider the implications of working in a remote environment. 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.
Lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and easier setup will drive the interest and growth for cloud based BI. These solutions offer the advantage of being relatively simple and convenient to deploy. Initially, small- and medium-sized organizations with limited IT resources will adopt cloud based BI, but this trend will continue to include clients of all sizes. It also resonates with business people in larger organizations because, in many cases, they don’t have an appetite for waiting around for IT. Also, continually improving security measures will put to rest any reservations businesses have with storing their sensitive data in the cloud.
BI and analytics have often been cumbersome or expensive to implement since a complete BI suite based on data warehousing has been a formidable and expensive project, and many BI toolsets and solutions have been limited to a small handful of business analysts or executives. Cloud changes all that. There is already a drive to make BI more ubiquitous, and the cloud will accelerate this move toward simplified access.
Not only do cloud-based BI solutions have advantages over on-premises BI for the usual reasons (rapid deployment, low upfront cost; quick and cheap scalability for processing, storage, operations and accessibility), but they also offer advantages such as the instant propagation of updates and changes.
Starting a BI application can easily be done using a cloud based solution since infrastructure and support are provided by the supplier.
BI is only valuable if you have the complete picture of your customer which now includes social interactions. Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are no longer considered to be hype or faddish but part of everyday life from a personal and business perspective. They can supply organizations with essential information about customer opinions and important trends.
One of the key goals of business intelligence is to achieve a higher level of ROI – both in terms of BI use as well as overall performance management. The promise of greater data visibility, enhanced business decision making, and the ability to lower operational costs and/or increase profits are some of the main reasons why the inclusion of social interactions in BI will continue to grow.
The addition of social media data adds to the overall value proposition of BI. Solutions should include more interactive tools that integrate social networking functionality.
2013 will be an important year for BI. To take full advantage, companies need to innovate and embrace the changes and not stand in the way.