Big Analytics Redefines Enterprise Decision Making

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The Internet of Things also is shaking up the way data is analyzed. “Much of this new big data is related to events or actions, such as storing sensor readings from vehicles, players’ moves in video games, or user clicks in an application,” said Hannah Smalltree, director of marketing for Treasure Data. “It can be behavioral data—about how a person or machines behaves.” This can greatly enhance analysis by providing a detailed view of people, products, and the real-world impact of changes. “Big data and behavioral data analysis clearly offers incredible potential,” she noted.

Data Democracy Thanks to a New Generation of User-Friendly Tools

Self-service may finally help enterprises achieve a long-elusive goal: providing analytical tools across entire organizations. Thanks to a new generation of user-friendly, intuitive, and graphical interfaces, “BI, especially self-service BI, is becoming more democratized in business,” said Kotorov. The bonus is that these new interfaces enable users “to develop and change their reports and dashboards themselves without assistance from IT.”

The new generation BI user is “the intern, CIO, and everyone in between,” agreed John Crupi, CTO of visual analytics for Software AG. “Executives want to get off the plane, fire up the iPad, and analyze data in real time without having to request reports, and are tech savvy enough to drag and drop data to get immediate answers.”

Much of the impetus for accessibility is coming from highly visual data exploration tools coming on the market. “We’re very visual creatures and a picture is often worth, and representative of lots of data,” said Stephen Kelley, chief technology officer for Hawthorne Direct. Visual analysis tools “put a visual, interactive front end on big data. The ability to see and change the results of data queries and analysis in real time is huge and opens up data analysis to anyone.”

As a result, gone are the days in which a few analysts sifted through the previous quarter’s data in search of historical trends. BI and analytics are everyone’s business. “When BI and analytics first began to emerge as a trend, companies often focused on initiatives around financial or operational,” said Paul Bennett, vice president of Hyperion Services for Velocity Technology Solutions. “More and more over the last 5 years, BI and analytics have been expanded to encompass all areas of enterprises, such as human resources, and customer service. For example, our customers are using BI tools to capture and report on things like union versus non-union headcount, employee productivity, competitor benchmarking, marketing initiative effectiveness, and many others.”

Mobile BI Brings Ubiquitous Access to Data

Mobile BI may be a powerful tool that will also help bring about ubiquitous access. The mobile experience is replacing the browser or desktop experience, said Theo Beack, senior VP and CTO of Vertafore. Executives and business leaders require access to insights provided from pre-analyzed data. “Mobile is making it easier and more accessible,” he noted.

However, some observers still feel that mobile BI is still in its very early stages. “Mobile BI apps are taking over desktops mostly for end users and consumers who need basic levels of BI functionality with very simple, yet powerful user interfaces,” said Oleg Komissarov, senior VP at DataArt. “For advanced, corporate business users and analysts, desktop BI tools still prevail though.” For instance, desktop Excel for such users remains king in providing well-known and comprehensive analytical functionality.

Technically, however, it may not be a great leap to move BI tools from desktop to mobile environments. “I view mobile applications as mainly the UI layer of an application stack, and are therefore completely practical for BI applications,” Kelley said. “Very few applications are standalone, so the differences between a mobile and desktop BI application are bandwidth and screen size; and mobile bandwidth is rarely an issue these days.” However, he cautioned that more sophisticated analytics may remain on the desktop for the foreseeable future. “Deep data exploration and BI development still benefits from lots of screen space and would be very tough on a small screen.

Cloud BI address growing user demand for analytics

As processing demands grow, along with increased numbers of users, many enterprises may seek to put more BI and analytics capabilities into the cloud. “BI in the cloud is an intuitive leap for most companies,” said Beack. “In addition, access to real-time or near real-time analytics in an always-on, mobile world is a must. It is technically challenging for many organizations to host their own BI platform, expose it for mobile or web consumption via dashboards, while protecting customer or proprietary business data.” He adds that he now sees many of his own customers running their entire businesses in the cloud.

Vendors are also moving their solutions to the cloud. “The cloud is a trend that is here to stay,” said Bennett. “The large BI software vendors are retooling their software so it operates in the cloud. The agility offered by the cloud reinforces the real-time data access trends in BI. We believe that cloud BI solutions will continue to experience tremendous growth. Big data is only going to get bigger.”

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Posted February 18, 2015