Business intelligence on the move

There aren’t too many CIOs out there that haven’t figured out that having the latest intelligence on what their organisation, their employees and their customers need, can provide a decisive advantage in building strategy.

However, the traditional Business Intelligence (BI) model is undergoing rapid change with the trends of mobility, social media and consumerisation of IT making BI a more user driven, rather than a data driven process.

With 2012 earmarked as the year of change it’s no surprise that analytics and business intelligence are on the top of the agenda for chief information officers (CIO) across the globe. According to a recent survey of 2,335 CIOs by Gartner, organisations are waking up to the fact that a social and mobile approach to BI can be an important business amplifier and foster innovation.    

One outfit that has been in the frontline of this new wave is US-based Qliktech, which has steadily built up a presence in the Australian enterprise space in the last couple of years. 

According to the company’s Australia and New Zealand regional director Mark Sands, the market is evolving quickly with "business discovery" the new buzzword.  

The BI market can be broadly divided into two camps, the traditional report-centric approach and the more recent data discovery approach, which is more end-user driven. The concept of a collaborative discovery model isn’t entirely a new idea but the emphasis so far has been to provide collaborative mechanisms within the traditional BI environment.

That approach, according to Sands, has one fundamental flaw.

“As users we don’t exist in a BI environment in isolation, it is one of many applications, technologies and systems that we might be working in at any one pointy of time.”

While collaborative tools within specific data-driven solutions are useful, the explosion of social media and consumerisation of IT have changed the definition of what constitutes a genuine collaborative enterprise environment. At a personal level we are increasingly gravitating toward social media networks to come together, and platforms like Salesforce Chatter are having the same effect at an enterprise level.

Combine that trend with mobility and suddenly the ability of looking at critical data and then tackling it collaboratively seems very possible.

However, there is another piece to this story: interactivity and real time virtualisation.

Deploying BI on mobile platforms again isn’t a new concept but what is new is the push to make the content more appealing on mobile devices without sacrificing capability. Effective BI software has to not only make the most of the mobile environment from a visual perspective but also provide a level of interactivity that allows comprehensive analysis.

Today’s BI customers are keen on building a closer relationship with their data and as they move away from the type of reporting that focuses purely on volumes of  raw data and more analysis, the keys to the kingdom are shifting away from the grasp of IT managers.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a role to play in the new BI landscape. Talk of IT becoming redundant is symptomatic of the rude awakening some businesses have about changing the existing model.

IT departments still have a key role to play in terms of the infrastructure, data governance and security, as Sands puts it the “things they are really good at.” 

“It’s not a question of choosing one way or the other, there’s a place for both. We need our data warehouses and we need our statutory, regulatory reporting systems,” Sands says.

In some ways this rigidity had been an impediment to adoption of smarter, leaner BI platforms and  these structures are not going to become extinct overnight.

However, what they need to do is sit alongside an environment that allows organisations more flexibility and allows them to work with data in new ways that will take analytical applications into uncharted territory.