The Death of Business Intelligence

BI 2013: How did the market fare?

Posted in Analytics, Business, Business Intelligence, IT, Microsoft, SAP by neilwilson1984 on January 22, 2014

Business intelligence (BI) is a term that has been on the lips of many businesses and their owners the last year, with companies looking to find solutions that make decisions that little bit easier. It has seemed that uptake of the strategy and software has been picking up pace throughout the year, but just how did 2013 treat the BI industry?

Overview

In general, the BI market last year was relatively strong without setting the heather on fire. Growth might not have reached peak levels, but they have been far better than at other times and other sectors across this year.

According to one expert, it has been very middling, with the chief executive officer saying: “I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse.”

Uptake in general has been good, but it has failed to reach the 40 per cent growth levels that were experienced back in the mid-90s. However, it is important to note that at this time the market was still new and exciting and it was being brought into firms for the first time.

On the other hand, though, the market has not hit its lowest ebb either. This was experienced in 2008, when growth levels were hammered by the worldwide recession. Companies paring back what they offered meant that growth sat at just two per cent throughout that year.

This is no bad thing though. While other sectors across the globe have seen revenues dropping and have had to make cutbacks, the fact that BI has continued to grow can only be seen as being a good thing for the sector overall, leaving good prospects on the cards for 2014 and beyond.

A tale of two sizes

In 2014, it has been about different types of BI, and growth in the two can be compared on one simple scale – size. While large companies have continued to grow throughout the year, it has been those smaller firms that have enjoyed the best levels of improvement in 2013.

Large BI providers such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP have enjoyed a growth level that has sat at just single-digit improvements in terms of revenue, but it has been a different story further down the ladder.

According to Condi Howson at Information Week, some smaller firms have performed so strongly that many even nearly doubled their revenues throughout the year.

One such company was Tableau, which saw its revenue figures jump by 75 per cent throughout the year 2013. Other companies that enjoyed revenue leaps far in excess of larger competitors included TIBCO Spotfire (30 per cent) and QlikTech (23 per cent).

Why?

So why are smaller BI companies performing well? The answer is simple – they are much more malleable and ready to adapt.

Most small and medium firms cannot afford the very largest BI solutions, so they look towards those that can provide just what they need – self service and bespoke software that just ticks all of the right boxes.

Of course, they cannot get these from the larger companies around the globe, which means they will increasingly turn to smaller BI firms, giving these a boost throughout 2014.

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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 data.gov 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.

IT Zero or IT Hero

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence, CIO, Crisis & Turmoil, IT, Microsoft, Office 2010, SPARQL, SQL, Value by jenniferrhowell on April 26, 2010

IT Specialist, IT Manager, CIO these titles used to strike fear in the hearts of many a CEO and CFO. Back in the good old days an IT specialist was like a God. The IT specialist would walk around with the power to transform companies by saying magical words no else could understand. It was fine that no one else understand because normal people aren’t supposed to be able to directly communicate with Gods.

For years this was how it went, IT would declare they needed something new (a piece of expensive hardware or software) and companies would blindly follow or fear being left behind.  Today, the IT officer isn’t special anymore. Today, IT within companies is seen like a Greek God, interesting historically but not relevant for bringing lasting change to the business.  Today, IT is supposed to do more with less. CFO’s demand IT cuts before any other department. IT implementation is a thing of the past; instead IT manages the current systems and adds new employees to the systems. IT managers, instead of fighting for their place within the company, are accepting the role of being outdated relics of the IT Golden Age.

Can the IT department be relevant again?

In a world where technology is everywhere and everything is technology, how can an IT officer and the IT department become relevant again? At a recent seminar by Peter Hinssen, a group of CIOs were told to ask themselves this same question. The answer it appears is surprisingly simple. IT needs to become risk takers again. When the world-wide-web was first becoming popular, IT implementers were the pioneers, guiding companies into the new world through our knowledge and the sheer force of knowing that IT was the future. The IT gurus in the company knew the Internet was going to be huge and they were sure they could make it work for their companies. Today, IT needs to take risks again. IT managers need to look at a company through fresh eyes and guide businesses into the future.

The forgotten bottom line

How can this happen if IT budgets are all about keeping current systems in place? Again, the answer is like a big, duh! The IT department needs to start thinking like a business. Look at the marketing department in your company. They have a budget to keep things like the website up to date and the marketing papers current, however, their second remit is to find ways of creating value for the business. If they seek $10,000 for a social media campaign, you better believe they’ve done their homework on the ROI this is going to bring to the bottom line of the company. The same needs to happen within the IT department. How many projects have you recommended that are going to bring a ROI within a year? In fact, in the last 5 years, how many IT projects have you recommended that will bring value to the company and did not simply support existing databases?

The Crystal Ball of the 21st century

One way of making the IT department relevant again is to sit in on each department and see what they do on a daily basis. What does Marketing, Finance, Operations and HR do and how can you help them do their job more efficiently? One really important question to ask is where are they doing the bulk of their work? As Michael Singer wrote on his blog Internet Evolution “The mobile phone and the laptop have replaced the desktop PC and cubicle as the workspace of the new millennium. So the challenge for enterprises today is to ensure that the mobile workforce is not only connected, but pretty much psychically linked.” As IT Professionals, you should be the crystal ball of the company. Where is technology moving and how can you implement this technology to give your companies the competitive advantage? Looking at the management team, are the software solutions you’ve recommended helped facilitate open communication and collaboration? Have these solutions enabled managers to make better, real time decisions? Is there a way to facilitate this decision, helping increase productivity and contribute to the bottom line of a company? Microsoft Office Suite 2010 is trying to offer this solution. Also, Business Intelligence packages like Power Pivot embedded in Excel 2010 or to get your organization on the right trace, solution that embeds advanced, unified planning and reporting capabilities right into excel. Performance Canvas Planning, offers a solution that offers complete information synthesis between departments as well. There are simple solutions that can start making your IT department relevant but they do require putting your IT department back into the corridors with the rest of the workplace.  As Mark McDonald said, “the value of IT exists through time, so any measure of IT should be shown across time”, while, it may be the case that you are no longer feared as Gods but in the 21st century you can still be relevant as productive, innovating and entrepreneurial where your input contributes to the bottom line of the company and doesn’t just diminish it.

To learn more about Office 2010 and planning functionality, go to the DSPanel website.