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Six trends in Business Intelligence in 2015

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Message TRENDS 2015 on ascending arrow above bar graph

In today’s high-tech world, everything is changing at an alarmingly fast rate. As approaches, technologies, and trends are moving so quickly, it’s no longer sufficient just to track these movements; it’s important to be ahead of them. In this context, a new class of experts—trendwatchers, who study which way the wind blows and predict future trends—has emerged. In the age of Information Technology, understanding the future gives businesses a competitive advantage and drives demand for trendwatcher services.

In this article, we will explore global BI trends for 2015 outlined by vendors and market analysts and provide our assessment of their novelty and power to drive BI development in the future.

Data conversations

This is a relatively new and promising trend. We view it as the evolution of visual storytelling that has gained popularity over the last few years. Static reports are becoming a thing of the past. The reason is because a traditional graph or chart can answer only one question or one aspect of the problem. What if you need to answer questions that might come up from the audience during your presentation? What if you need to look into data from a different perspective in real time? Modern BI is ready to help you here. Cloud services and mobile clients enable you to work with data from anywhere. Reports are faster and more interactive—you are free to make whatever changes you like in the report while presenting it. Data is both analyzed and updated in real time. As visualization tools become more sophisticated, you can create meaningful infographics instead of dull charts. In this way, data starts telling us a story in real time, while the analyst is having a conversation with data.

The rise of social intelligence

Businesses put emphasis on social media long ago, as social networks made their first steps toward becoming a part of our daily lives. Previously viewed as a marketing channel only, now social media is a gold mine of valuable insight into the target audience of businesses. Every day, users generate a stream of “big data” that contains insights into customer behavior, customer preferences, and modern trends. Gaining these insights is a major challenge. This gives rise to the development of so-called social intelligence, or tools specifically designed to work with information from social media. Essentially, these tools refer to big data and data mining products. Despite bright prospects, social intelligence is unlikely to become a key BI trend in the near future. Ten years ago, it was believed that social media marketing (SMM) would replace traditional advertising channels, but that didn’t happen. The bottom line with social media is that it has limited potential for use, including the use of the information contained in it. Therefore, this trend will not dominate in the future.

BI for everyone

BI systems went a long way toward becoming user-friendly. BI used to be the sole province of IT experts, where even simple tasks like creating a new report involved coding. Now, a BI user can be an analyst who enjoys simple and user-friendly tools requiring no special technical knowledge. The trend toward simplicity is gaining momentum. Today, analytics is needed to any employee at any level or function—from a logistics specialist to a product manager to a sales director. In response to these needs, vendors do their best to simplify products. In this context, self-service BI tools come to the fore. Self-service BI is not an emerging trend this year, but rather it is an existing trend that is gaining traction. Last year, many vendors offered self-service data preparation tools. These tools enable users to automate and simplify data import to BI systems, integrate and structure data from various sources, and prepare data for further analysis. Note that data preparation packages often come as standalone products with integration capabilities, not as a built-in part of BI. We believe that this trend deserves close attention.

Cloud analytics aren’t just for cloud data

Cloud-based BI solutions emerged years ago. Previously, cloud services were primarily used by companies for data in cloud storage. This year, vendors talk about first-use cases of cloud services for on-premise data. A shift toward cloud services is because such services offer greater mobility, do not require deployment or configuration of infrastructure, and reduce costs (although they do not always cost less than installed solutions). However, they are far from being novel. Software as a Service vendors have been offering cloud services for a long time, but this does not necessarily indicate that the shift to cloud services will become a dominating trend. Like installed solutions, cloud services have their advantages and disadvantages.

Mobile BI

BI support for the operating systems of mobile devices is no surprise anymore. Workers are more mobile across the globe, and technologies are more prevalent for workers to work from anywhere. Adapting to this trend, BI tools are accessible from phones, tablets, and other devices. However, in 2015, mobile BI continues to be in the focus of experts. This trend emerged long ago, and it is not fading away. In 2015, for example, first BI apps for smartwatches were offered in the market. Despite data visualization limitations due to the small size of the typical smartwatch display, these mobile solutions help track certain key indicators, get notifications on major changes in indicators, and email confirmations or rejections on important matters. These solutions might be of interest to people working in a rapidly changing environment, like stock market professionals, where real-time decision-making is critical. It does not necessarily mean that BI will continue expanding aggressively to wearable electronics. However, the trend toward greater mobility is clear, and it will continue to drive market growth. We must be prepared for the shift in emphasis to improved visualization and management tools, better content, and ease of use. It is not about providing visualization for the sake of visualization. It is about improving the user’s perception of information rather than creating a masterpiece.

Smart data discovery

This is a relatively new BI trend that empowers users to perform what amounts to self-service analysis, including self-service data preparation, native language queries, automatic creation of visualizers, big data, and predictive analytics tools. The term smart is used in part because, in some products, this functionality is provided based on emerging technologies of artificial intelligence (IBM Watson).

In summary

The bottom line with emerging BI trends is that they respond to the demands that an information-oriented society impose on individuals and businesses, such as access from anywhere, high performance and rapid response, availability and ease of use, and ease of perception of information.