The Future of Business Intelligence

As an ex-strategy consultant and the CEO of an analytics-focused company, I have spent a fair bit of my time with data and its analysis. Processing data to make decisions is at the core of what we do both in business as well as in our personal lives.

Prior to outlining the potential future, I was curious to understand when humans started analysing data in a structured format and its evolution since then. While there were many forms of data representations through the ages, it turns out the first signs of graphing was in Euler’s paper published in 1736 (Solutio Problematis ad Geometriam Situs Pertinentis). However, the term “graph” was coined in 1878 by the English mathematician James Joseph Sylvester. This implies that we have been attempting to organise data into a visual representation for at least 150 years. What astonished me was IBM’s[1] recent claim that 90% of the data today has been generated in the past two years. I have seen the implications of this during my consulting days as I watched Executives struggle to cope with the data glut and trying to make sense of it in a manner that enables better decision making.

To state the obvious, this trend will only grow over time. Why? As humans we want to be right when we make decisions. We believe having the right information (not necessarily more information) at the time of decision-making helps us arrive at a better, more educated decision. While making a decision by itself is an inherently complex psychological task, more often than not, it’s the lead-up to the moment of truth that causes anxiety and/or frustration as we seek data points to validate the mental models we build.

WE ARE LIVING THROUGH THE DATA REVOLUTION

Industries experience a revolution either when a new technological breakthrough occurs or when it matures to a point where the benefits of its outputs (product or service) reach a tipping point that can spread to the masses. Think of the industrial revolution, electronics revolution, desktop computing, Internet & smart phones and you will see an emergent pattern.

We are clearly in the midst of the data revolution and the era of “Big Data” created through every touch and click is upon us. Since machines are at the heart of this data explosion, it’s only fair to assume that machines will be required to enable Executives make smarter decisions, faster.

Gartner Hype Cycle 2013

Gartner Hype Cycle 2013

However, it will be an interesting journey for businesses and technology providers alike to address this issue since we seem to be heading into the eye of a storm. The 2013 Gartner Hype cycle indicates that “Big Data” is entering the phase of Inflated Expectation. As we make our way through this macro revolution, in the short term though we are likely to see a few slower but fundamental shifts in the field of BI (business intelligence) that will be the catalyst for the next explosion in adoption.

3 Future Trends of Business Intelligence

Looking beyond the obvious trends (Social, Mobile, Cloud), I would like to focus on three trends brewing at the tectonic levels of the BI industry. In my opinion, these trends are the catalysts for unprecedented adoption down the line.

In simple words, business intelligence tools need to be – Simplified, Specialized and Personalized.

1. Simplification – Every product needs to end up in the hands of its final user. BI’s real users are the decision makers in a company, statuesquely called the “Executives”. BI has successfully transitioned from the obscure backrooms of IT into the realms of analysts. However, the journey will end when the Executives (most of whom are not very tech-savvy) can use appropriate tools to aid their primary job – making decisions.

2. Specialization – As humans we seek specialist medical opinion for anything more than the flu as we want expert analysis on matters critical to us as individuals. Similarly, each industry and each firm is as unique as would be their data and practices. The era of generic, domain-agnostic systems will give way to systems that have deep understanding of the client’s business vertical. Specialist systems built on emerging technologies such as machine learning, knowledge engineering, artificial intelligence and the like will provide invaluable insights to the Executives on matters specific to their industry vertical to enable better decision making.

3. Personalization – Most of the current solutions are too hard to use and too complicated to implement and maintain. They provide limited utility to the bottom-line focussed Executives. Smart BI, with sophisticated technology that is almost transparent, resulting in personal digital assistants will unlock the vast under-tapped potential of the BI promise.

The combination of these three factors will result in the next wave of explosion in business intelligence – penetrating the mass-market / Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). The wealth at the bottom of the pyramid!

At Einsights, we have been diligently applying these three principles to the world of analytics – simplification, specialization and personalization. It’s our raison d’etre. We are striving to make the decision making process easier through the intelligent use of technology. Decisions are not made in a vacuum; they are context-sensitive and so should be the analytics that lead to the decision making moment.

References
[1] http://www-01.ibm.com/software/au/data/bigdata

Sandeep Rao is the CEO of Einsights. He’s an experienced strategist, analyst, engineer and speaker. He started Einsights to empower executives to make better decisions, faster, with tools that speak their language. Sandeep is based in Sydney.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: softworx | Looking ahead: the future of BI

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