The Death of Business Intelligence

Cloud-based BI solutions preferred

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on September 30, 2013

Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics software professionals overwhelmingly prefer a cloud-based BI solution over conventional, on-premise installed software for gaining access to the real-time business data they need to make better decisions, according to a new report.

Cloud BI user satisfaction tops 80 per cent, says the study from Dimensional Research, which found BI professionals say cloud solutions offer faster implementation, lower total cost of ownership and broader user adoption than installed BI software

“These results confirm that cloud BI solutions are strongly preferred, offering faster, easier and more economical deployment and lower total cost of ownership, along with superior ease of use, which drives broader user adoption within the organization,” said Diane Hagglund, senior research analyst for Dimensional Research and the study’s author.

Cloud BI users reported the highest level of satisfaction, with four in five “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their solution, compared to just over half (51 per cent) of on-premise BI users who were satisfied.

More than half of BI users said they would choose a cloud BI solution over on-premise, while only 14 per cent said they would prefer on-premise software.

It was also found that cloud BI solutions offer faster implementation. Four-fifths (83 per cent) said cloud BI solutions offer faster implementation compared to on-premise software, with 69 per cent of cloud BI implementations were completed in less than three months.

By comparison, the majority of on-premise users said their deployments took more than six months, and 44 per cent were completed behind schedule.

Cloud solutions, says the report, are cheaper. Fewer than one-third of cloud BI users reported implementation cost overruns, while nearly half of on-premise users said they exceeded budget or incurred unexpected costs during implementation.

In addition, three in five (60 per cent) of those polled said cloud BI solutions are easier to use, and require much less training. Four-tenths (44 per cent) stated that on-premise required the most training for business users, compared to only five per cent for cloud BI users. When asked about administrative overhead, 80 per cent stated that on-premise solutions require more administrators.

Adoption rates are also better in the cloud. Over half of respondents said more employees access and use cloud BI solution, compared to just 17 per cent for on-premise BI.

“The truth is that regardless of how beautiful your application is, how many features it offers, or how much it costs—if employees don’t use it, all of that is irrelevant. This survey proves that more people prefer –and actually use—Cloud BI to gain the critical business intelligence they need to drive success,” said Brad Peters, chief executive officer and co-founder of Birst, which commissioned the study.

The report comes as Oracle launches ten cloud services, as well as a cloud marketplace, to show it is serious about the cloud. These include database as a service, Java in the cloud, and business intelligence (BI) in the cloud.

Thomas Kurin, executive vice-president for product development at Oracle, explained to Computer Weekly: “[We can] give you enterprise resource planning [ERP], human capital management [HCM] and customer experience [CX] in a single cloud.”


Microsoft updates Power BI for Office 365

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence, Microsoft by neilwilson1984 on September 27, 2013

Microsoft has announced the addition of significant new features to the Power BI for Office 365 preview. Although not fully released, it will offer the ability to mine data using natural language through question-and-answer-type queries.

The software giant said the update includes “natural language search with Q&A”, as well as improved experiences in two preview add-ins for Excel with 3D mapping visualizations through Power Map and improved data search in Power Query.

Introduced in July and currently in preview, Power BI for Office 365 is a self-service business intelligence (BI) service delivered through Office 365 that complements Excel. It delivers data analysis and visualization capabilities, enabling workers to identify deeper business insights either on premises or within a trusted cloud environment.

With Power BI for Office 365, customers can connect to data in the cloud or extend their existing on premises data sources and systems to quickly build and deploy self-service BI solutions hosted in Microsoft’s enterprise cloud.

“We’ve had the preview open to an initial wave of customers for the past month and are encouraged by the enthusiastic response we’ve received. Today we’re excited to share some of the new features we’ve added recently to both Excel and the Power BI for Office 365 service,” Microsoft said on the TechNet Blog.

A highlight is the Q&A function, which the firm says takes enterprise data search and exploration to a “whole new level”. Microsoft said: “With Q&A, we looked at how consumers experienced Bing search and used that knowledge to enable customers to query their enterprise data and generate stunning visual results. The search experience is instantaneous and uses natural language query – Q&A interprets the question the user is asking and serves up the correct interactive chart or graph.”

Power Map, formerly GeoFlow, is another cool tool. This is an add-in for Excel which gives users the ability to plot geographic and temporal data visually on Bing Maps, analyze that data in 3D, and create interactive tours to share with others.

“This month, we made some significant updates to Power Map on the Download Center including immediate geo-coding of geospatial elements of data coupled with new region-based visualization that color-codes these geo-political areas: zip code, county, state, country/region,” Microsoft explained.

Users can also take the interactive tours designed in Power Map to create videos optimized for mobile, tablets/computer, and HD displays. These videos can be shared anywhere, including social media, PowerPoint slides, and Office 365.

Microsoft also updated Power Query, which is an add-in to Excel which helps customers easily discover, combine and transform their data. “We have improved the online search experience and expanded the number of available datasets including popular datasets from and the Windows Azure Marketplace, in addition to Wikipedia,” said the firm.

Power BI for Office 365 is designed to enable as many people as possible in an organization gain actionable insights from big data. “With Power BI we are providing access to powerful business analytics tools, built into our existing products including Excel and Office 365 to make data analysis engaging and impactful,” says Microsoft, which has yet to announce an official launch date for the set of cloud-hosted tools.

Not all business intelligence solutions are created equal

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence, Mobile BI, Mobile Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on September 26, 2013

Not all mobile analytics / business intelligence (BI) solutions are created equal. There are, explains Andrew Borg, research director at Aberdeen Group’s Enterprise Mobility & Collaboration practice, two fundamental approaches, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The first is platform specific or ‘native’ mobile BI apps, able to exploit the hardware and user interface capabilities of the specific mobile device. On the other hand we have browser-based approaches that will work on any platform, but typically have more limited functionality. The functional differences in these two approaches can directly impact the outcome of the organization’s mobile analytics initiative, says Borg in a new report on the topic.

Timely access

The capabilities of HTML5-based web apps are advancing “rapidly”, says Borg, with many similarities to native apps such as graphical, touch-based interfaces, limited device control and local storage data. However, there is scope for native apps to be more responsive, interactive and capable because they can exploit the device hardware and operating system more fully.

“For example, native apps can have more robust local data storage and synchronization capabilities, can directly access a wide variety of device hardware such as cameras or other sensors – and if designed properly, can have full functionality even when offline,” explains Borg.

Research by the group shows little difference between the capability of natives apps and browser-based approaches to delivery of timely information. But when it comes to improving year-over-year, natives apps show a much greater capacity to improve.

Organizations that use native apps as the primary method for accessing mobile business intelligence are more likely to benefit from a richer set of capabilities, including real-time data feeds, automated alerts as well as the ability to annotate, collaborate and share.

“These capabilities can help workers find the information they need, exactly when they need it,” says Borg. Drill-down is another capability offered by native apps. This enables the end-user to quickly and easily navigate from summary information initially presented on their mobile device to more detailed data.

For example, a field sales executive can get hold of vital data on a customer’s orders quickly. “For the sales rep meeting with a disgruntled customer, having the information at their fingertips is priceless,” says Borg.

Tracking benefits

Borg points out that the use of native applications for mobile analytics often requires a bit more forethought and planning than a browser-based approach. Organizations that already use browser-based BI on laptops, for example, can immediately use the same apps with any mobile browser, even if they are not yet optimized for mobile access.

“From a management perspective, the use of native mobile BI apps does add some relative complexity,” notes Borg. Decisions must be made: tablets or smartphones? Apple, Google or Microsoft? The browser-based approach is considerably easier; as Borg points out just “open up your mobile browser, and deploy”.

But native apps seem to go hand in hand with greater measurement. Organizations which take the native mobile BI approach are 53 per cent more likely than companies using a browser interface to measure the productivity of mobile employees, and 52 per cent more likely to return on investment on their mobile analytics projects.

For Borg, organizations need to weigh up the pros and cons of each. Neither is perfect, meaning businesses must carefully decide which platform works best for them.

Business intelligence investment on the rise

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on September 25, 2013

More companies are preparing to invest in business intelligence solutions, but so far few have actually deployed in the field.

Big data investments in 2013 continue to rise, with 64 percent of organizations investing or planning to invest in big data technology compared with 58 percent in 2012, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. However, less than eight percent of survey respondents have actually deployed.

“The hype around big data continues to drive increased investment and attention, but there is real substance behind the hype,” said Lisa Kart, research director at Gartner.

Organizations across industries and geographies see ‘opportunity’ and real business value rather than the ‘smoke and mirrors’, she explained.

While two-thirds of organizations are investing or planning to invest in big data technology in 2013, 30 per cent have already taken the leap. One-fifth (19 per cent) plan to invest within the next year, and an additional 15 per cent plan to invest within two years.

Wherever companies are based, investment typically has different stages that organizations go through. The process begins with knowledge gathering, followed by strategy setting. To start with, firms are spending more time than money.

Typically this is followed by an experiment or proof of concept. Again the financial investment is small.

After completing a successful pilot, the first deployments take place. Here the investment curve rises sharply, says Gartner. Over time, business operations start to rely on the deployments, and the investments move from implementing systems to managing them.

“For big data, 2013 is the year of experimentation and early deployment,” said Frank Buytendijk, research vice president at Gartner. “Adoption is still at the early stages with less than eight per cent of all respondents indicating their organization has deployed big data solutions.”

Twenty per cent are piloting and experimenting, 18 per cent are developing a strategy, 19 per cent are knowledge gathering, while the remainder has no plans or don’t know.

In the wide-ranging study, Gartner also revealed that many of the big data activities are incremental to current business practices; for example, better understanding customer needs, making processes more efficient, further reducing costs or better detecting risks. Indeed these make up the majority of the use cases today.

But a sizable minority of organizations are engaging in more “game-changing” activities; for example, 42 per cent are developing new products and business models. One-quarter (23 per cent) are monetizing information directly. This, says Gartner, is encouraging, the “big opportunities” lie mostly in these areas.

“While there are many areas companies would like to address, a slightly different picture emerges when we ask about the priority of these categories,” said Ms. Kart. “Different industries have different priorities when it comes to big data. Industries that are driving the customer experience priority are retail, insurance, media and communications, and banking, while process efficiency is a top priority for manufacturing, government, education, healthcare and transportation organizations.”

IBM commits $1bn for big data

Posted in Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on September 24, 2013

IBM is committing $1 billion to help clients capitalize on big data and cloud computing with modern systems built to handle the new wave of applications coming to the data center in the post-PC era. The company is putting the money into Linux and open source technologies for IBM’s Power Systems servers.

As part of the investment, the tech giant announced two new developments, the first of which is a new IBM Power Systems Linux Center for developers, clients and partners in Montpellier, France. The new center is among a growing network of facilities around the world where software developers  can build and deploy new applications for big data, cloud, mobile and social business computing using Linux and the latest IBM POWER7+ processor technology.  Similar centers have already opened in Beijing, New York and Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, to serve the growing number of developers, business partners and clients interested in running Linux on Power Systems, IBM is expanding its Power Systems cloud for development.  The no-charge cloud service is ramping up its infrastructure to provide more businesses the ability to prototype, build, port, and test Linux applications on the Power platform as well as applications built for AIX and IBM i. 

IBM fellow and vice president of power development Brad McCredie revealed the new investment in front of more than 1,400 delegates at the Linux Foundation’s LinuxCon conference in New Orleans.

He explained the investment will go into product research, design, development, ecosystem skills, and go-to-market programs for clients, developers, business partners, entrepreneurs, academics, and students. 

For McCredie the requirement for first class business intelligence is vital for firms operating in a fast-changing technological landscape.

“Many companies are struggling to manage big data and cloud computing using commodity servers based on decades-old, PC era technology. These servers are quickly overrun by data which triggers the purchase of more servers, creating un-sustainable server sprawl,” he explained.  “The era of big data calls for a new approach to IT systems; one that is open, customizable, and designed from the ground up to handle big data and cloud workloads.” 

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation commented: “The last time IBM committed $1 billion to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed.”

Meanwhile, IBM is introducing new cloud and mobile-enabled social business software and service capabilities which will allow executives to quickly move their business processes into the cloud to drive better decision making and increase productivity.

IBM SmartCloud Connections features File Synch and Share, which lets employees access the cloud and share files securely and in the way that works best for them, online or offline, on their smartphone or tablet, desktop application or browser.

For example, an executive can update a customer presentation on their iPad in real-time, incorporating feedback from a meeting that just ended. They can then synch the newest version into the cloud to ensure the entire team has access to the latest document. 

Pamela Webb from SafeGuard World International, which provides globally managed payroll services, has already seen an increase in productivity and benefits for clients.

She explained: “The ability to actively engage and have real-time visibility to project progress in a secure environment really gives our clients confidence in both the implementation process and our organization.”

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Business intelligence software saves British Army millions

Posted in Business Intelligence, IT, SAP by neilwilson1984 on September 19, 2013

Business intelligence has a truly transformational effect on organizations. Data impacts every of an organization and harnessing its potential to make decisions is crucial.

Ultimately, though, the usefulness of applying business intelligence (BI) strategies comes down to a simple equation: how does it impact the bottom line. If BI software can’t save the company money, or create new revenue streams, what’s the point of it?

The British Army is not an organization looking for new ways to make money or respond to customer demands. But it is very much an entity that is looking to save money, and drastically.

Good news for it and the BI market, then, as the organization is enjoying some huge savings from introducing BI software.

The British Army is using SAS (business analytics software, not special forces) to analyse and more efficiently allocate manpower and resources, saving UK taxpayers more than £20 million – approximately $32 million.

The Army retains a complex system with up to 200 trades supported, from Infantry to signaller and from engineer to plant operator mechanic. With multiple sources of big data about its personnel, such as skills and capabilities, efficient data handling is crucial to making the right manpower decisions.

Through SAS-driven insight, the army has been able to realign – and avoid wastage – of expenditure totalling £770 million.

Finding savings in this area is hugely important. Personnel accounts for around a quarter of military spending in the UK overall, but three-quarters of the army’s budget.

In addition to creating and providing innovative solutions, the SAS Professional Services team of domain experts are working on-site to help the Army integrate disparate sources of data relating to human resources. Ground-level support means it can work in a more agile and efficient manner when responding to urgent and evolving information demands, as well as supporting the overall manpower planning programme.

Elaine Drummond, head of public sector at SAS UK, said: “SAS gives the British Army a much greater insight into vast volumes of information held within their systems. By sufficiently aligning and simplifying the data, the British Army now has the power to make better-informed decisions about manpower planning, driving efficiencies and new opportunities for innovation.

“The role the in-house SAS team play in supporting the Army will remain critical in reviewing manpower efficiencies and system optimisation today and in the future. Our close engagement on-site means that we can support the current restructuring process by ensuring that systems are aligned with the Army’s core needs – efficient and more structured manpower planning.”

The software being utilized by the army includes SAS Enterprise BI Server, a business intelligence software solution that provides insights from big data that enhance enterprise and data mining capabilities. It is also using SAS to maintain a high quality of data, correcting input errors and de-duplicating data sets, while SAS Enterprise Guide is helping the army streamline its data, analytics and reporting capabilities.

Data critical to ERP in manufacturing

Posted in Business by TheLondonEconomic on September 12, 2013


Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a vital function for firms in the manufacturing sector. But manufacturers need to be agile and able to respond to situations quickly, making a lack of information a problem.

Over one-third (38 per cent) of manufacturers surveyed by Aberdeen Group for a recent report cited a lack of timely information as their top business driver for ERP. “If employees are unable to access data when they need it for decision-making, organisations can miss out on opportunities (such as favourable prices for materials),or be slow to react to adverse events (such as products that need to be recalled),” the report’s author, Nick Castellina, states. “The costs to the organisation can be substantial.”

The report also highlights how ERP can serve as a “hub” for collaboration, containing records of conversation and facilitating communication between employees. Best-in-class organisation are more likely to utilise ERP to facilitate communication, collaboration, and continuous improvement, it reveals.

They are also more likely to provide their employees with access to the data they need to make decisions. According to the study, 77 per cent of best-in-class organisations are able to view summaries that can then be drilled down in order to understand past performance and the status of processes across the organisation. “For example, project-based manufacturers can track costs that will help them steer projects away from scope creep and going over budget,” says Castellina.

However, it is not enough to simply have all of this data available to employees. Since agile reactions are needed in today’s manufacturing environment, best-in-class firms more likely than others to aid their employees with automatic notifications. In addition, to continuously monitor performance against goals, 70 per cent of the best performers have the ability to create variance reports.

Again we see how business intelligence is giving firms a competitive edge. Thirty-eight per cent of best-in-class organisations have a fully integrated view of all customer information. “This is necessary for understanding customer requirements, shipping orders more quickly, and responding to service requests,” says the report, noting that this can be a key differentiator that separates manufacturers from their competition. Castellina adds: “This is just one of the ways in which visibility can help an organisation to perform more effectively. But what technologies can be utilized to provide the above capabilities?”

According to the study, what matters is creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ for data. Top performers have tailored their business systems to best serve their needs. Since collaboration and visibility are critical to manufacturers, it is logical that their “operational backbone” serves those needs specifically, the report says.

Leading organisations are 80 per cent more likely than the rest to have integrated business systems serve as a complete system of record. Best in class organisation are also more likely to integrate business intelligence into ERP.

“This means that employees can find all of the data they need in one place. If it’s easy to find, then employees will be more likely to use it,” says Castellina.

CMOs and CIOs failing to gel

Posted in Business by TheLondonEconomic on September 6, 2013


Chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) are failing to collaborate effectively, according to a new report. Only one-in-ten of the executives polled believed collaboration between the two roles is currently at the right level.

The report from Accenture highlights the key role that business intelligence can pay. It shows disagreement over the freedom and control of the use of technology and data prevents effective collaboration.

While 45 per cent of CMOs say they want to enable their teams to leverage and optimize data and content without IT intervention, 49 per cent of CIOs counter that the marketing department uses technologies without consideration for IT standards.

As Accenture points out, business intelligence holds the key to change. It recommends the skills mix in both organizations should be updated: the marketing department would become more tech savvy and the IT organization would become more agile and responsive to market demands. The report also suggests both teams agree on key business levers and embrace tools, processes and platforms to understand consumer intent and unlock consumer value.

CMOs and CIOs agree that technology is essential to marketing and that its primary purpose is to gain access to customer insight and intelligence. But while CMOs believe gaining customer insight is their number one motivator for collaborating with IT, CIOs rank this tenth on their list of reasons to work together. Accenture calls this the CMO-CIO ‘disconnect’.

“The CMO and CIO continue to work in silos, but now more than ever bridging the gap between those two organizations is critical for success,” says Brian Whipple, global managing director of Accenture Interactive.

“With today’s multichannel consumer seeking highly relevant experiences and with digital and analytics platforms emerging to help companies respond, marketing and IT executives must work more closely together.”

In spite of the issues highlighted, the report does suggest the situation is on the mend. Both CMOs and CIOs believe their relationship has improved over the past year: 45 per cent of marketing executives and 47 per cent of IT executives share this opinion. In addition, almost an equal number of CMOs (41 per cent) and CIOs (42 per cent) believe that significantly more collaboration with each other will be required to drive improved customer experiences.

As Mr Whipple points out, this trend needs to go even further if organizations are to fully realize the benefits of business intelligence tools and platforms.

“To succeed in the digital age, CMOs must place an immediate focus on technology to improve relevant customer experiences and advance marketing practices,” he explained. “The good news is that CMOs and CIOs agree technology is important. Now they must work together to agree on how technology can be most appropriately applied to drive their company’s specific marketing needs, and how it can ultimately result in increased brand affinity, loyalty and sales growth.”

Just to add another element to the mix, when it comes to processing data, the Journal of Accountancy argues the finance department should be taking the lead role. Certainly all three departments – IT, finance and marketing – must learn to engage and work together.

Top 5 BI trends in 2013

Posted in Business Intelligence by TheLondonEconomic on September 6, 2013

There have been a number of changes to the business intelligence (BI) market in the UK in recent times, thanks to the fact that the mass market has displayed more of a demand for the technology. This has led to a number of trends in the ever-evolving sector, but what have been the most significant developments so far this year?

The second wave of Big Data

We have known about Big Data and the potential it has as a business tool for the past few years, but recent developments have meant that it is now seen differently.

While the attitude to Big Data used to simply be that it was there and should be harnessed by firms in some way for consumer and business analysis, BI users are now starting to look at the ways in which it can be used and how this can have an impact in decision making moving forward.

The sophistication of analytics

This is a derivative of people’s changing attitude on how Big Data can be analysed at the moment, with more companies now.

Dr Nabil Abu El Ata, president and chief executive officer of Accretive Technologies said that there will be a movement away from the simple correlation of basic statistics towards highly sophisticated algorithms for the analysing of what-if decisions.

He added that this will mean Big Data becomes a major tool in itself for the minimising of risk and complexity within business decisions.

Simplified Big Data Tools

The simplification of BI and Big Data technologies has become far more commonplace now as providers try to create something that allows for the common user, as opposed to just experts, to harness the power of Big Data.

Changes have focused on making technologies cheaper, more accessible and easier to use without previously obtained skills, with one expert saying this will become an even more common reality in times to come.

Innovation through competition

In 2012, the number of providers in the BI market grew time and again, which meant that the biggest BI firms (SAP Business Objects, IBM Cognos, Oracle OBIEE and MicroStrategy) lost their grip on the market.

However, this is a good thing for the BI market as a whole, as the increased competition and the arrival of more smaller companies has meant that there is a greater incentive for innovation and new advancements from firms looking to reach the top of the pile.

Cloud technology

The emergence of the cloud in recent times has meant that there is now a demand from businesses and end users to have access to technologies at any time and on any device.

This has meant a shift in demand for developers in the BI market, and has made for a dynamic marketplace that is more competitive than ever as firms try to meet the demands of users around the globe.

From specialist capability to mass-market take ups: The world of BI

Posted in Business Intelligence by TheLondonEconomic on September 6, 2013

The market for businesses intelligence (BI) software has gone through something of a seismic shift in recent times, as it moves from being something of a niche or specialist tool only used by those with the skills to harness it, to a mass market behemoth capable of playing a massive part in the decision making of companies across the globe.

In the beginning, only those with requisite skills could harness the data analysing powers of BI thanks not only to the complicated nature of the concept, but also the prohibitive costs, and the failure of various firms to include non technical people in their decision making with regards to their take up.

So now, with barriers in the sector being broken down repeatedly, just how has BI managed to become more inclined towards the mass market it once evaded?

The changing BI concept

The major barrier to use of BI software in the mass market was simple – the technology was too complicated for the average user. However, three areas of focus are now helping to break through this hurdle as BI providers put more of a focus on the technology’s end users.

These, known as “super trends” have tended towards the non expert, with an emphasis now being placed on the technology user.

Firstly, there is now much more of a realisation of the value of the Big Data analysed. Second comes the realisation that technology development is now not all about being faster and stronger and is about being usable and accessible to all who need it, even if they are not clued up. Lastly is the emergence of a blurred line between professional and personal technology use, which has made for more of a consumerisation in BI, and led to a more business-led concept.

Business-led BI

According to Computer Weekly, the concept of business-led BI is one which can be summed up in three simple points; cheaper, faster and easier.

In order to advance, then, companies have had to adopt the following strategies in order to make sure that BI software barriers are a thing of the past.

Low cost – This was the main barrier to BI, and it is now generally believed that it should be easy to acquire the essential tool to at least a basic level for a relatively low initial cost.

Self serving – Users should be able to make use of the technology without having to have an extensive IT network behind them.

Universality – There should be a uniform style to technology in the sector to make sure that it can be used by experts and novices alike.

Accessibility – The software needs to be able to be used on any device in any place. This has been helped by the emergence of the cloud as a driver for BI growth.

Visuals – Interfaces should be easy to use and simple to navigate. While tech experts may favour command based prompts, for example, those without the skills will not be able to use this.

With these changes being made across the board then, the traditional barriers that were in place for the BI market are being broken down to allow the technology to become more accessible and on a wider scale than ever before.