It’s Business Intelligence, but not as we know it

Posted on Wednesday 1st August 2012 2:42

For more than a decade, the big players in Business Intelligence have leaned heavily on their software’s ability to provide analysts with accurate data about a business’s performance. But despite all their data crunching techniques and raw processing power, they all too often lack the tools that would allow users to leap from data to decision, and thus demonstrate the value of Business Intelligence to a company.

With this in mind it was interesting to see that research company, Constellation Research, has recently published a report by analyst Neil Raden declaring that Business Intelligence as we know it is ‘dead’. He predicted that the big vendors in this sector can expect to be disrupted by a new generation of smaller companies who are adding features such as predictive modelling, machine learning, and natural language processing, to business rules, data visualization, to what the report describes as “traditional” BI.

Raden is right when he points out that BI as we know it has significant limitations, depending as they all too often do on spreadsheet tools which make it difficult for analysts to guarantee data quality, keep an eye on governance and collaborate effectively with other individuals within their businesses. As the function that is already supposed to supply the information and insight that company executives need to drive the direction and set future strategies of their organisations, business intelligence is well placed to do this. But before it can BI must, as Raden says shed its reliance on fixed-schema data warehouses and read-only reporting models. These limitations, he argues, can result in BI becoming a silo within a business, rather than equipping people with the information they need to effect positive change and improve decision making. In fact Raden explicitly states that he believes that the limitations in existing solutions as being the central reason why BI has never achieved the market penetration expected in earlier days.

Another clear sign that BI is now arguably a market in transition comes from another major analyst, IDC, which published its latest market share report not under the Business Intelligence moniker, but as Business Analytics. This move represents an important step change, recognising that disciplines such as big data analytics, predictive modelling etc are now being folded into the BI market. Indeed the big market share winners in the IDC report (Tableau Software, QlikTech, and Tibco Spotfire) are exactly those companies which offer a more integrated approach to business intelligence and analytics than those from more traditional vendors.