In the last year, many people seem to want to give a sexier name to business intelligence, whether "business analytics" or "big data." To me, it’s still just business intelligence, that illustrious, top-ranked technology that can help companies boost revenues, improve customer service, or control costs, by making better decisions, faster. So whatever you want to call this category, here are my predictions for the top BI trends for 2013, and a look back on highlights of 2012.
1. Dashboards Expand and Evolve
You would think that dashboards are now the bread and butter of business intelligence with all companies using them and not much to innovate on. And yet dashboards were rated the top priority for expansion and innovation in the 2012 Successful by Survey (see Figure 1). Dashboards rise to prominence, really becoming the face for business intelligence, is a confluence of next generation technology along with a recognition that BI must be aligned to business goals to be successful. Access to data alone doesn’t help a company improve; instead, keeping workers aligned, focused on the right metrics, and informing in a way that let’s employees take pre-emptive action are what next generation dashboards enable. Key features enabling next generation dashboards include in-memory processing, the ability for users to mash data together and to assemble their own dashboards, KPIs, faceted search, mobile, and the ability to link insight to action.
With BI platform vendors generally lagging the capabilities in specialty vendors, in the next year customers will continue to mix and match solutions from different providers particularly when there is a strong differentiator such as with QlikTech (rapid deployment and associative analysis), JackBe (operational), or Metric Insight (KPIs). Look for all vendors in this space to continue to improve their capabilities in 2013.
SAP for example recently released its next generation dashboard tool, Design Studio, with support initially for BW and Hana data sources only. Look for SAP to improve the mobile and visualization capabilities in its new product, along with integrating and merging its once lead dashboard product, Xcelsius, rebranded Dashboards in 4.0.
QlikTech, meanwhile, has been previewing QlikView.Next which the vendor says is not only a next version, but a next generation product. Much of what they have shown me in this release is still under non disclosure, but the themes focus on combining gorgeous and genius, mobility with agility, compulsive collaboration, enabling the enterprise, and enabling developers.
Looking back, an important dashboard release in 2012 was of Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, acquired by Oracle at the end of 2011, rebranded and able to run on the Exalytics appliance. While Oracle keeps wanting to classify this product as a discovery tool, it is best positioned as a dashboard application, but uniquely positioned to explore unstructured data using faceted search.
2. Self-Service BI and Visual Data Discovery Revisited
Self-service BI continues to be a vision for many companies in which users are empowered with data, able to explore new data sets without the need for much IT support. Visual data discovery tools have become synonymous with self-service BI, and as products and vendors in this space have been growing at three times the pace of the overall BI market, vendors are quick (too quick) to attach the visual discovery moniker to their products. As I wrote in the latest BI Scorecard Strategic and Product Summary report, there is a continuum of self-service BI capabilities that ranges from interactive reporting to business query to visual data discovery, and yes, even to tools such as spreadsheets.
My hope in 2013 is that companies recognize this range of self-service and that vendors help in this education rather than just jumping on whatever bandwagon has the most hype. Leading companies will make this shift to self-service BI both as a form of empowerment, but also, as a way of ensuring the smartest allocation of limited, constrained IT resources. A full 44% of companies surveyed say BI teams do not have adequate time, funding, and resources to keep up with BI demand. With the fight for talent in BI, simply hiring more people is not the solution. Instead, business users have to embrace responsibility for straight-forward, routine BI tasks. At the same time, IT has to let go of some of the mundane enhancement requests and instead, focus on the more complex data challenges and on leveraging innovations.
In 2013, look for Tableau to release version 8 which will include browser and iPad-based authoring, a relative rarity in this category of tools. Also look for first-generation visual discovery products from BI platform vendors to continue to improve.
- SAS Visual Analytics Explorer, first released in February 2012, is due out with a new version that will support calculated columns, forecasting, decision trees, and maps
- Microsoft’s Power View via SharePoint (released in Q1 2012) will make a re-entrance as an Excel add-in.
- SAP Visual Intelligence, first released for Hana in March 2012, is now on a roughly 6-week release cycle, continuing to bring support for more data sources and capabilities
Some other major releases of 2012:
- MicroStrategy 9.3 released Visual Insight, making it one of the first BI platform vendors to receive a “good” score for visual data discovery.
- Actuate acquired Quiterian that combines both visual exploration and statistical analysis for mainstream business users.
- TIBCO Spotfire released version 5 allowing customers to leverage in-database (in addition to in-memory) for exploring larger data volumes
- Jaspersoft 4.7 added on-report interactivity without the need to move into authoring mode.
- IBM Cognos Insight first released in February 2012 provided desktop exploration and merging of multiple data sources.
3. Mobile BI Boosts BI Adoption
Just when you thought the dust was settled on the leading tablet (the iPad), Microsoft released the Windows Surface, and Apple missed Wall Street earnings estimates. Prime time ads for the Surface abound! And oh how I would love to more easily synch my Outlook calendar with my iPhone!
Gone are the days when corporate IT can set mobile-device standards, but instead, users are increasingly bringing their own devices (BYOD), forcing IT (and BI vendors) to support a broad swath of smartphones and tablets. The easiest approach to deliver BI on mobile devices is for IT and for BI vendors to support HTML5. But to date, the best user experience continues to be device-specific apps. Just what exactly those apps need to support is a moving target as user requirements evolve. For example, interactive offline capabilities, few and far between in 2011 (mainly from specialty vendor RoamBI), increased in 2012 with MicroStrategy, SAP Mobile, and Oracle Mobile HD newly providing such capabilities.
So in 2013, will we see native support for Microsoft Surface, or will vendors use the HTML5 approach for this device? It’s too early to tell, but I don’t anticipate any broad shift to Microsoft SilverLight. The debate about which capabilities to provide on a smartphone versus a tablet, and how best to do it, will continue. Mobile Device Management will remain a separate market segment, but savvy mobile BI providers and customers will integrate with these solutions so that when a device is lost or stolen, there is additional security beyond just a user name and so that offline data can be wiped. In 2013, Mobile BI will also continue to drive BI adoption, re-igniting executive interest and making BI more relevant to field and front line workers.
In 2012, only 11% of surveyed companies had successfully deployed mobile BI. BI adoption at those companies was 39% of employees, far ahead of the industry average of 24% of employees.
4. In-Memory Goes Mainstream
It could be said that 2012 was the year for major in-memory releases, making 2013 the year for companies to implement this now-established technology.
In-memory was initially an approach leveraged by a few OLAP solutions (TM1) and a few specialty vendors including QlikTech and Spotfire. Now, all leading BI platform vendors have in-memory solutions, with Oracle being the last to join the ranks with its Exalytics engineered system that runs the TimesTen in-memory database, released in Q1 2012.
Kicking off 2013, SAP announced the release of Hana for OLTP. But the debate about when to use in-memory or when to use an analytic appliance, columnar database, or relational and disk-based data warehouse will continue, driven by equal parts existing expertise, increased analytic demands, and cost.
Other noteworthy in-memory momentum in the past year:
- Microsoft announced Hekaton, an in-memory transaction database expected in 2014 or 2015
- IBM released Cognos 10.2 that includes dynamic, in-memory cubes for relational data sources
- SAS released its LASR Server that combines in-memory processing with Hadoop for large scale analytics and visual discovery. Unlike SAP Hana and Oracle Exalytics, SAS runs on commodity hardware.
5. Big Data Continues to Generate Big Interest
One of my peers referred to the Big Data hype as reminiscent of the gold rush. Yep, there’s money to be had (and to invest), but as of yet, there are only a few who strike it rich.
Big data such as web clicks, tweets, and genomic data is critical for in certain industries such as ecommerce, gaming, advertising, healthcare, and fraud detection. The problem with the big data hype, in my opinion, is that some associate big data only with Hadoop and with the demise of the data warehouse. However, I see Hadoop and noSQL solutions as being only a part of the architecture for handling structured and unstructured data. The traditional data warehouse, analytic appliances, and BI vendors all have roles to play here.
So in 2013, companies in certain industries will indeed embrace new solutions from big data start ups including DataMeer, Karmasphere, Platfora, and SiSense. Others will leverage big-data connectors from their existing BI tools. Similar to Pavlov’s hierarchy of needs, for the majority of companies still grappling with basic data access, big data will continue to be just an interesting cover story.
6. Cloud BI Becomes Another Deployment Option
Cloud is another area of BI that is grabbing a lot of headlines, but to date, not a lot of deployments. According to a Gartner estimate, Cloud accounts for only 3% of total BI revenues. Cloud BI would seem to fall, then, in the domain of “nice to have.” And yet, if you talk to CIOs, many would welcome the chance to get rid of infrastructure maintenance and instead focus on higher value IT investments. BI in the cloud provides that opportunity, along with flexibility to handle elastic demands. Initially, security concerns were the biggest barriers to cloud BI deployments. There is now a greater understanding of, and therefore, acceptance that cloud BI can be secure. The question becomes whether your provider can do a better job than you in ensuring reliability and security, a question challenged by yet another Amazon blip during the make-or-break Christmas season. Beyond that, BI vendors have had to re-architect their products to be cloud-ready, both in terms of multitenancy and the ability to leave data on premise.
In 2013, we will see more POCs and trial-versions of BI cloud products. Cloud will not be a product differentiator that it once was, but instead, will just be a deployment option. Oracle has stated its intentions to preview a reporting and analytics in the cloud in the first half of the year. Also look for Pentaho to release its next generation architecture that will be multitenant.
- MicroStrategy launched Cloud Express, further building on its personal and platform as a service offerings released in 2011.
- Information Builders WebFOCUS 8 was released improving support for multitenant deployments
- Microsoft released SQL Azure for Reporting, its cloud-based hosting solution for Reporting Services but has been mum if it will add Analysis Services to the cloud.
7. Collaboration Moves Beyond Social
With Facebook’s flop of an IPO, you might think that social networking and collaboration were just passing fads … or ways to share photos or look up old flames. But in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, Facebook and Twitter became our main ways of finding a place to shower, to charge, and to find a hotel. It was a study of contrasts of who knew how to use it (not JCP&L whose twitter handle I couldn’t even find) to Governor Christie, who started the period with useless tweets (“ watch my live stream” uh, not on limited battery), eventually to provide more useful tweets such as when we would get power restored.
I still get the sense that most vendors tick collaboration off the feature list without a clear vision or passion for the promise that sharing can bring. A few BI vendors, do seem to get it, most notably Panorama and Lyza. Some customers have told me their users don’t ask for these types of features, to which I recall that nobody asked for a clothes washer or a mobile phone either. But when I read about how, for example, United Health Group and the Mayo Clinic will be sharing and mining data across boundaries, I think collaboration in BI has the potential to bring the best data together with the best analysts.
Those are my predictions for the biggest trends in the year ahead. Wherever your priorities lie, enjoy the journey!
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard