It’s early 2014 and we are in the midst of hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into business intelligence, and nobody’s using it.
If only we could chart the irony on a dashboard.
Despite hyperactive adoption by decision makers over the past few years, only about 18 percent of employees use BI tools, according to research by BI Scorecard.
Only now are BI providers starting to realize that when you lob dashboards like tennis balls from a machine, users run and hide. Algorithmic intelligence is finally making its way to the BI world to solve the problem. When BI providers finally personalize data, users will adopt—and a true BI renaissance will occur.
The Reactionary Dashboard Conundrum
Perhaps Steve Jobs summed it up best: “You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”
Many of us know what happened when BI first evolved: Accustomed to the intuitive interfaces of consumer apps, users pushed the back office for better BI tools. They demanded visuals in place of greenbar reports. They wanted sleek, mobile-ready, cloud-based BI instead of on-premise behemoths.
Providers responded with a new crop of dashboard-based tools. Over the past several years, companies adopted these tools en masse—the global business analytics software market grew 15 percent in 2011 and 8.7 percent in 2012, according to IDC.
Now, concerned by the lack of adoption within their organizations, leaders face a post-implementation hangover. They’re asking where the ROI is for their fancy new tools.
Too Much of a Good Thing
The dashboard-centric tools marked what I call the BI 2.0 era. (BI 1.0 encompassed the clunky enterprise systems of yore.) Although beautiful, dashboards don’t respect the user experience. Tools from the 2.0 era provide the equivalent of a dashboard Yellow Pages: Users must sift and scan until they find the right information.
Dashboard overload explains why the average businessperson avoids BI. Nobody can consume information at the volume and rate that BI systems generate it. Data today comes from every channel and every mobile device, from point-of-sales to Mark Benioff’s toothbrush. BI systems stow it all in dashboards marked URGENT.
What if you don’t want to know what the office Nest thermostat is telling you? What if you only care about the performance of your sales reps out in the field? Or the average speed of the trucks that are coming cross-country from California to supply your New Jersey supermarket chain with avocados?
Where’s My ROI?
With fancy new BI 2.0 system under the hood—and nobody using them—leaders are asking how the systems will benefit the entire company. This year, BI is less about speed and color, and more about living up to its initial promise of providing data analytics to everyone. This is what I call 'BI 3.0', the era when systems finally provide data that everyone wants to consume.
The industry is currently in the process of sealing exactly what BI 3.0 will look like. Integration is the first step, and is currently playing out in both small and large companies. Intel recently packaged BI-like analytics on its Intel Data Platform, a new back-end big data engine. Microsoft is integrating user-facing BI into its Office 365; Salesforce folded in BI with its acquisition of analytics startup EdgeSpring. Even startups are folding BI into their niche offerings—social marketing platform Unified, for example, recently announced that it is weaving BI into its advertising services.
Providers are focused on hitting users with BI inside of the apps where they already dwell. That’s a key facet of BI 3.0, spooning up intelligence without making users work for it. The other steps involve delivering the right data to the right users at the right time, and adding social abilities to BI. I expect to see both features play out more vigorously in the industry later this year.
If 2013 was the year of big data hype, then 2014 is the year that things in BI get more interesting—for users and for the industry itself.
Marius Moscovici is the Founder & CEO of Metric Insights, the market leader in Push Intelligence. With over 20 years of experience in the Data Warehousing industry, Marius is focused on building a premier organization that provides innovative software and consulting services to deliver Business Intelligence solutions that are fast, easy, versatile, and affordable. Follow Marius on Twitter @MetricInsights
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