By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard
Note: this blog is being migrated to a new site. If you have this on an RSS feed, please visit new location for continued updates: http://blog.biscorecard.com/
In some respects, 2014 echoes some of the same themes as 2013, but faster and louder when it comes to visual data discovery, cloud, and mobile. Big data will also continue to garner attention, but with a more pragmatic view. Simplicity, meanwhile, experiences a second coming. Here are the top five trends for 2014.
1. Visual Data Discovery and Self-Service BI
Visual data discovery took center stage in 2013, with specialty vendors (Tableau, QlikView, TIBCO Spotfire) growing rapidly and mega vendors (SAP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, MicroStrategy, SAS) stagnating. BI heavyweights have taken notice that more agile and visual solutions have eaten into their bread-and-butter, query-and-reporting market share. All have responded with new interfaces and solutions. The intial releases of visual data discovery solutions from mega BI vendors tended to have limited capabilities, but the gap is slowly closing. Both the specialty vendors and the heavy weights -- are trying to find the balance between agile yet trusted data -- user driven but IT controlled. It's not an easy line to straddle.
The entire BI tools market was largely founded on the concept of self-service BI: let users create their own queries without having to know SQL. The difference is in how much IT is involved upfront and how much users are able and willing to do themselves. Visual data discovery tools have brought a greater degree of ease, appeal, and flexibility than other BI modules such as production reporting, business query, and dashboards.
Tip: If you haven't already made visual data discovery part of your BI portfolio, your company is missing an opportunity to empower business users. Make it a priority to adopt in 2014.
Here's what you can expect from vendors in the year ahead:
- Tableau , TIBCO Spotfire, and MicroStrategy released major new versions in 2013 that they will be pushing customers to adopt in 2014. Actuate also released a new version of its platform, Actuate Analytics, with integrated, advanced capabilities for customer segmentation.
- QlikView Next, currently in beta, brings a next-generation architecture to market and is expected to become generally available this year.
- LogiAnalytics released a new LogiVision interface in early January aimed at the business user and competing with visual discovery solutions.
- The concept of story telling is increasingly appearing in BI products in which information and analyses are presented to support a decision-making process -- a bit like PowerPoint. Look for this in the latest SAP Lumira, Tableau, and QlikView.Next products due in 2014.
- As visual data discovery deployments expand, roles and responsibilities for BI teams must change to ensure business agility doesn't degenerate into chaos. BI teams that have taken a hands-off approach to visual data discovery tools need to support data provisioning and best practices; conversely, users who have relied on IT for every last sort, filter, and customization will need to learn to fish for themselves.
Cloud has been hot in almost every software segment except BI. Salesforce.com and NetSuite have put a dent in sales of business application market leaders SAP and Oracle. But the same cannot be said in BI, where cloud BI vendors such as Birst, GoodData, and Indicee have remained niche players.
I think 2014 will be the year that cloud finally takes hold in BI. Part of the change will be due to market maturity, but also, the degree of pain and opportunity cost for BI teams to maintain their own infrastructure has reached a tipping point. BI resources are limited. Would your company rather have that available talent spend time accessing and exploring data, testing innovative ideas, and bringing in more data; or do you want them bogged down maintaining infrastructure and upgrading software?
What are the signs that 2014 will be a pivotal year in cloud BI?
- Birst and Gooddata gained additional VC funding in the second half of 2013
- JasperSoft's Cloud Analytics launched in 2013 as a pay-as-you-go option on Amazon Web Services and it's showing strong momentum.
- Look for MicroStrategy to unveil a similar initiative to make their software available through a broad set of public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), with users subscribing by the month, day or even hour.
- Microsoft Power BI, a SaaS solution for self-service business intelligence, currently in technology preview, is expected to be available in 2014
- Oracle intends to launch a SaaS-based BI offering in 2014
- IDC predicts cloud spending overall will grow 25% in 2014.
With more choices and scalable databases offered in cloud environments, concerns about data scalability seem less valid than in the past. Some BI vendors let you keep your data on premises while using the cloud for software delivery, giving customers the best of both worlds.
Tip: To get started in cloud, consider a proof-of-concept project for a line of business looking for particular functionality not available through your on-premises BI platform.
For years we've been hearing "mobile first" from a number of BI vendors, so you'd expect a degree of maturity and stability in this segment. However, the market is still debating how to deliver mobile, what capabilities to offer, and which devices to support. For many BI teams, mobile BI is still something you have to push users to embrace, despite the industry hype.
There's significant room for improvement in mobile BI, with ig big differences in functionality remaining in four areas:
- HTML5 versus native apps: To date, native apps have provided the best user experience, but might 2014 be the year that HTML5 takes over? Developers would like to develop once and deploy anywhere. Users, meanwhile, want the best user experience, with full touch-screen functionality, rich graphics, and great performance.
- Security: Mobile Device Management systems allow customers to grant authentication at the device level in addition to supporting user names and passwords. They also support remote wipe and lock out in the event a device is lost or stolen. Some BI vendors provide this functionality within their own platforms, and others rely on third-party MDM vendors.
- Interact or author: I've surveyed many users and found that for now, they primarily want interactive consumption of BI in the form of view, refresh, sort, filter, and drill. Authoring reports and capturing new data may be cool features, but most BI users are still waiting for the basics to be covered.
- Offline: Airplane mode aside, there are also many locations -- remote buildings, warehouses and so on -- with limited cell service. For these situations, offline capabilities are important for mobile BI, yet few vendors provide this functionality. In particular, consider whether the offline support that is available is viewing of static page images or an interactive app that can explore cached data. When offline use is supported, security clearly needs to be robust.
Tip: Just because users aren't asking for mobile BI doesn't mean there is no business value. Identify mobile workers and pilot the capabilities so users understand the potential.
4. Big Data and Little Data
Big data may be mainstream news, but it's nowhere near mainstream deployment. According to a recent TDWI survey, only 10 percent of companies have deployed big data technologies, and a similar finding from a Tech Target survey puts the number at 14 percent.
As I discuss in my book, Successful Business Intelligence: Unlock the Value of BI & Big Data, there is still confusion about what "big data" means. Many consider it synonymous with Hadoop and NoSQL technologies and, in the early days, predicted the demise of the data warehouse. Fortunately, even providers of Hadoop solutions, such as Cloudera, are increasingly recognizing that Hadoop is only one part of a big data ecosystem. Analytic appliances such as IBM PureData System for Analytics(formerly branded Netezza) , Pivotal Greenplum, and HP Vertica (to name a few) are also part of the big data market. In-memory computing with the likes of SAP Hana, Oracle Exalytics, and Microsoft Hekaton (due in 2014) also supports big data analysis.
The earliest adopters of these technologies may have large data volumes, but others have small data volumes. These organizations are looking to mine insights from unstructured content such as sensor data, tweets, Facebook posts, and email messages that arenot so easy to explore with traditional relational databases. They, too, need new technologies even if it's not about "big data."
In the year ahead:
- Expect tighter integration between Hadoop technologies and traditional data warehouse storage with a greater emphasis on the right use cases.
- Look for better support from BI vendors for a wider range of big data sources.
- In the Hadoop-only world, specialty solutions from startups such as Datameer, Platfora, as well as new entrants will mature.
- SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft continue the quest to run transactional applications all in-memory, threatening traditional disk-based storage.
- Vendors will be innovating, but BI teams are largely still getting educated.
My dad was a disc jockey when I was growing up, and our stereo system, with so many knobs and dials, was so complicated that I didn't dare go near it. In much the same way, many business people tend to shy away from BI tools. There have been attempts to achieve simplicity in BI, but with lackluster success.
Expect 2014 to be the year that the new face of BI will be simple -- without sacrificing smarts. These products will be driven in part by visual data discovery, but also by search, improved dashboard interfaces, and embedded BI.
In the area of search, the year ahead will bring:
- Oracle Endeca 3.0 (released in late 2013), with cleaner visualizations and faceted navigation of both structured and unstructured content.
- Microsoft Q&A, an interface for the upcoming PowerBI release that will let users enter simple search terms to find existing content or to create data visualizations.
- IBM Project Neo, a SaaS-based offering that combines search, smart visualization, and advanced analytics
- Startups NeutrinoBI and DataRPM are using search and natural language processing to bring simplicity to a broader base of users.
In writing this article, I started first with what was top of mind and tried to hold myself to five – a tough constraint. I also had a look at what I thought would be big in 2013 and whether or not those trends proved to have staying power. Last year, I wrote about next-generation dashboards, and vendors certainly delivered in that space. In-memory as a computing approach was more of a headline last year that has become integral to big data, cloud, visual data discovery, and mobile. I've held my list to the top five trends for 2014, but a top-10 list would have to include advanced analytics, collaboration, social data, the talent shortage, and privacy. We saw a lot of activity in 2013 in advanced analytics with SAP acquiring KXEN in 2013 and broader support for R. Companies still seem to be struggling with basic data access though, and limited expertise and talent shortage is limiting broader adoption of advanced analytics. Vendors are trying to address this by embedding the smarts directly in the software. At the same time, I'm encouraged by the number of universities beefing up their BI and analytics curriculum.
I would think that with all the success of Facebook and most recently a Twitter IPO, collaboration in the BI world would now be showing strong momentum. It made my top trend list last year, and yet, that social influence has not yet gained traction in BI. It's continuing to emerge, but business users seem disinterested. I attribute the slow adoption to a combination of product immaturity and requisite change in workflow and culture. While collaborating around data is lackluster, mining social data has become part of the savvy marketer's toolkit. I've seen good solutions from BI vendors, particularly Information Builders and IBM, but also from Attivio that integrates with a number of visual data discovery vendors. Privacy though can through a big wrench in all this big data and social data. From Snowden and the NSA phone tapping to the Target data breach, individuals have gotten a big education on just how much data we are creating, how much it's being mined, and how easy it is to steal. The greater good for all this data needs to be weighed against the need for privacy. Expect some more breaches and backlash.