There is a lot of buzz in the market about artificial intelligence, machine learning, chatbots, blockchains and hackathons. The list could go on. You do not hear much about business intelligence these days. Does this mean BI is no longer needed?
Absolutely not, but I do believe it is worth having a closer look at how business intelligence has evolved over the past 10 to 15 years, and what it will mean for the near to midterm future.
Business intelligence has been the backbone of decision making. The content has mostly been delivered by IT providing governed access to data, reports and dashboards. Tools have been pretty complex and data mostly had to be pre-aggregated due to limited computer power, and development cycles tended to be rather lengthy.
Business intelligence is a standard tool for everyone, from big companies to small and medium businesses . Contemporary applications across multiple devices use visual analytics to apply analytical reasoning to data through interactive visual interfaces. Self-service products are gaining traction, with a focus on ease of use and self-service data preparation. Content creation is no longer in the hands of IT – it has moved to the business. The usage of predictive analytics has become more popular. Nevertheless, classical BI reporting is still a big part of the content, due to the fact that the amount of data and the number of information recipients in organisations is constantly growing.
There is no doubt that business intelligence will remain important for organisations in the future, and there are several reasons for that:
- The ever-growing amount of data and the availability of new relevant data sources makes it necessary to start with some traditional BI reports first. These reports might already deliver valuable insights and can give some hints about whether further analysis is required or not.
- The growing number of recipients of reports across all parts of an organisation will make it necessary to provide content that can be easily digested. Although the analytical skill level of staff is growing, it makes sense not to ask too much of somebody starting to work as an analyst. Benefits can still be derived from dashboards and reports, and a quick success will definitely foster curiosity. In the end it will lead to the adoption of more analytical visualisations that deliver additional value for the company.
- The availability of self-service graphical interfaces that allow seamless integration of analytical content into existing dashboards and reports will foster the willingness to enhance existing content with analytical results. If you can have a simple bar chart beside a decision tree allowing interaction in the same user interface, the borders between business intelligence and developing analytical models will fade away.
Business intelligence, as we understand it today, has been undergoing significant changes in the past 10 years. Content creation has been moving from IT to the business, and gradually predictive analytics has improved the business value of reports and dashboards. The key to success is the integration of all these valuable assets into one single interface to make it as easy as possible for the information consumer.