BI and Analytics Reach the Tipping Point

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The shift toward mainstream business users is accelerating, “especially as analytics capabilities are tailored to the expectations and knowledge of the users beyond simply data scientists and engineers,” noted Kocoloski.This also includes the ability to deliver reports free of the IT department, as well. “It is no longer acceptable to submit a job and have to wait to come back hours later for the report,” said Ajay Anand, vice president of products for Kyvos Insights, a big data analytics company. “Self-service, interactive analytics on data at massive scale is becoming a requirement.”

Sascha Schubert, advanced analytics marketing manager for SAS, the provider of business analytics software and services, refers to this growing cadre of enlightened and data-savvy business users as “citizen data scientists.” This is creating demand for analytics solutions that are “easy, accessible, and intuitive, with tightly integrated data discovery and predictive analytics capabilities,” he said. Another trend shaping today’s generation of solutions is the “integration of analytics into streaming data to establish real-time decision making.”

There’s been a notable “broadening of the user base to include many different professions,” said Paul Nashawaty, director of product marketing and strategy for Progress Software’s Data Connectivity and Integration division. This includes “technologists using the information to track product trends, marketers monitoring the efficacy of complex campaigns in real time, and IT personnel analyzing support needs.”

However, not every application or function needs to be available across the board, Information Builders’ Kotorov cautioned. “Money is made in operations but operational users do not analyze data in the traditional sense,” he explained. “They do not use tools to slice and dice their data, nor should they be doing so. For instance, delivery truck drivers wouldn’t need to analyze big data themselves. Instead, they should be able to use analytics apps to find the shortest route for deliveries. The same is valid for nearly every profession—police officers, physicians, retail managers, or merchandisers.”

Still, the challenge remains to ensure the data proliferating across enterprises is of the highest possible quality and is trustworthy. Governance needs to be a key piece of enterprise analytics, especially as it expands across user bases, said Darren Cunningham, vice president of marketing at the data and application integration PaaS company, SnapLogic. “Setting up new users and provisioning them with the right access controls has never been easier,” he said. “But there has always been the need to balance the demand for self-service with the need for strong IT governance.”

Data quality goes hand in hand with data governance as well. “For companies who want to adopt self-service analytics, the question of data quality is one that needs to be addressed,” said George Corugedo, CTO and co-founder of RedPoint Global, a provider of enterprise data management and customer engagement solutions. “It’s like putting a chainsaw into the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it. All sorts of bad things can happen.”

The rise of self-service and more accessible analytics are going a long way toward “putting information directly into the hands of the decision makers,” said Ken Inman, vice president of data analytics at Neustar, a provider of real-time information services. “In the past, data-based empirical applications often required a data science or analytics team pulling, and analyzing data first. The most valuable solutions are those that remove the data scientist or analyst from the equation, and provide direct access to the information in an actionable easy to understand fashion.”

What’s Ahead in BI and Analytics

The year ahead will be marked by pronounced changes in the BI and analytics space. SAS’ Schubert predicts that BI and analytics will continue to become more entrenched “in more business processes for greater agility and improved decision making.”

In the process, analytics will increasingly become more accessible. Expect to see even greater “access anywhere, anytime through interactive visualization tools to an ever-expanding volume of data,” said Neustar’s Inman. As a result, the challenge will be to support “mobile devices and laptops inside and outside the office,” he said, answering the needs of “a digital campaign manager who wants to track performance from home on Sunday” or “a regional VP who needs to respond to questions on last months’ sales results during a status update meeting.”

Such widespread access to powerful analytics also has a multiplier effect on the business’ competitive edge, said Omri Kohl, CEO of Pyramid Analytics, which provides a web-based BI platform. “These solutions put more people in an organization in the know. They are able to analyze, monitor and report on data, so they have trusted insights to make sound decisions.”

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