I have now completed a full year of research at Aberdeen Group (the last 6 months have been the busiest of my career, by far!), and I can truly say that after 20 years as a user and marketer of BI technologies, the past year has taught me more (as a researcher) than the previous 20 did while I was immersed in the day-to-day struggles of the software environment.
After conducting 10 major primary research projects, and benchmarking over 5,000 companies, one very interesting “trend” has emerged: BI’s “expansion” – to more end-users, and addressing more internal and external data – is being pressured and somewhat stymied by BI’s “contraction” – the need for simpler, less costly, lower resource-dependent solutions that address information needs closer and closer to real-time.
My research has shown that companies are feeling pressure to expand the use and accessibility of “business intelligence” (reporting, analytics, dashboards, scorecards, etc) among various groups of end-users within their organizations (and to external stakeholders such as customers, partners, investors, etc). The challenges to accomplishing this are many. In fact, survey respondents identified three factors that are inhibiting BI expansion within the enterprise:
– A lack of BI skill sets among non-technical business users
– The inability to integrate data from all sources necessary to meet business needs
– Poor data quality – end users do not trust the information
Moreover, 80% of all companies surveyed rate the delivery of actionable information to the enterprise as a top-10 priority, yet 37% report that enterprise use of business intelligence applications has stagnated, decreased, or that they do not know which way usage is trending. The reasons for this are numerous, but the conflicting forces of expansion and contraction are at play, and this is really what BI technology solution providers are tasked with solving:
– Increased access to actionable information – to new non-technical stakeholders who have been underserved in the past
– Improved delivery of actionable information – via a self-service method to the enterprise requiring little or no IT intervention
– Decreased “time to information” – to accelerate decision-making and actions, the gap between business events and the availability to information about those events needs to be shortened
As companies continue to drive BI’s reach to non-technical users, particularly the line-level knowledge workers who have traditionally been underserved by BI technology, they are also seeking new methods for delivering access to BI that alleviate some of these challenges. Aberdeen’s research uncovered a significant growth in interest among respondents in new methods for BI delivery. 39% of respondents state that they plan to access BI as an embedded capability within enterprise applications, and 31% report plans to access BI capabilities via “On-Demand BI”, or BI delivered within a “Software-as-a-Service” (or SaaS) offering.
Research also reveals that interest in external and “unstructured” information, such as data contained within Web 2.0 applications (instant messaging, web pages, blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, etc.) and other customer-facing applications (web page – content management systems, email, customer service applications) are increasingly being targeted as important sources of information and functionality for future BI solutions. 46% of respondents plan to integrate Web 2.0 content with existing BI reporting and analysis applications, and 44% report plans to tap into web content management systems and web pages for additional external BI content.
Unstructured data is found primarily within the consumer-driven applications that a new generation of knowledge workers have grown-up with and are now incorporating (whether management likes it or not) into the day-to-day mix of office productivity tools. Companies must begin to recognize the potential power that can be derived from a strategy that leverages the natural progression of web application technologies and the user-created data and “group wisdom” that can be captured. But this also increases the “expansion” of BI beyond current growth rates as these new sources of data represent 3 to 4 times the data volumes that have traditionally been addressed by BI. So, if data quality is currently a major inhibitor holding back the expansion of BI… what does the influx of ungoverned external do to the equation?
I will continue to research the conflicting forces of expansion and contraction as it relates to business users’ quest to obtain access to trusted information faster and easier… I would be interested to learn about your organization’s approach to dealing with the expansion and contraction issues. Feel free to post responses!