It's time at Dashboard Insight to look forward to what 2011 will bring us in the Business Intelligence (BI) arena. Last year at this time, we made our picks for the top developments in BI for the coming year. We boldly covered a lot of ground -open source BI, data visualization and federated mashups, cloud computing, and far beyond- keeping our readers on the leading-edge of technology. All of these trends will continue to accelerate and be just as important in the coming years ahead. The market for business intelligence will continue to be one of the fastest growing software markets, and as always, we will keep you ahead of the curve on technology. For instance, we started expounding about the intersection of business intelligence and social networking long before many of the large IT research and advisory firms made it a cause célèbre.
What is remarkable is how much more agile and nimble BI has become in the last year. We now have business intelligence everywhere in our daily lives--the ability to make highly informed personal and business decisions at any time or place thanks to our personal computers, iPhones, smart appliances, iPads and more. What follows is our rundown of what will be red hot areas in BI in 2011. We look forward to covering much of this subject matter in further detail this year at Dashboard Insight.
Rapid Evolution and Integration of Social Networking Tools
A few years ago I began to write about the looming explosion of social networking and social networking analysis technologies in the business world. I am happy to say that this topic has grown far beyond my wildest expectations. Social communication and collaboration occurring through things such as wikis, Twitter, instant messaging, blogging, and other web publishing platforms has resulted in wholesale changes for human communication and interaction. Social networking technologies are becoming tightly integrated with the fabric of enterprise business applications. In the near term, customer relationship management (CRM) and internal communications and collaboration will merge even further with external (public facing) and internal (corporate intranet) social networking technologies.
Some of the most important developments in BI (and computing in general) are not directly about technologies: they are centered firmly on strategic business imperatives. Consider crowdsourcing, which became one of the most popular business buzz words in the last year. Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks or thought leadership (traditionally performed by an employee) to an external community via an open call for suggestions or expertise. This external community can oftentimes be the general public, where it is expected that the most qualified to address the issue will respond and contribute; or the call can be more specific and narrowed in its target group focus. Crowdsourcing has been greatly enabled by Web 2.0 technologies, especially those that have roots in social networking and allow for transparent mass collaboration and content/knowledge sharing. The simplicity, reach, and lack of cost make crowdsourcing a very potent tool for companies of all types and sizes.
Customized Cloud Computing Models
As cloud computing becomes more of a commodity, cloud-centered delivery models will become greener and less costly, with cloud services being delivered more rapidly. But as with any commodity service, vendors will be working overtime to distinguish their services from their competition. Thus, over the next twelve months we will see cloud computing vendors do a better job of creating more sustainable value for clients through customization and packaged private cloud implementations. This will come in the form of industry specific cloud offerings, which will materialize as full life-cycle data solutions. Tweaking the vendor’s public cloud services into made-to-order hardware and software services and data delivery models (especially with respect to the security needs of individual customers) will make going to the cloud a more viable proposition for all data-driven organizations.
Aside from obvious cost savings, one of the biggest bonuses for customers of cloud services will be a new found business agility that comes from being able to provision server and storage resources on a dynamic basis. This flexible infrastructure provisioning is a huge boon for “just-in-time BI”, removing formidable barriers to BI for many that do not have the infrastructure firepower to handle data mining by the terabyte. With BI running in the cloud, these organizations will pay only for the services or infrastructure that they need. The cloud will give all companies access to sophisticated BI technology and level the playing field for those organizations that can afford neither complex BI solutions nor human expertise.
Further Adoption of Advanced and Predictive Analytics
More business and government organizations will start to understand the benefits of predictive analytics. Looking at data from the perspective of past happenings and interactions will always be a vital component of an organization’s BI practice. Nevertheless, constructing models and running simulations to predict future outcomes and developments will be vital for retaining competitive advantage. Organizations are starting to go the extra mile in retaining expertise in this area and commencing the build out of their complex analytic platforms. Sooner than later, look for these advanced analytics platforms to be merged with data mining applications that prune data from social networks, blogs, customer forums, etc. Once the synergy between predictive/advanced analytics and social networks is fine tuned, every facet of business from CRM to product development stands to be revolutionized.
Microsoft Office as a Service
While not a necessarily a development rooted in BI, Microsoft’s new cloud strategy for their Office productivity suite offers a glimpse into the future of BI service delivery. With Office 365, Microsoft is hoping to directly challenge Google and other smaller competitors by offering their core MS Office applications (hosted on their cloud-based web servers and delivered from their humongous data centers) on a monthly pay-as-you-go basis. MS Office 365, which includes Office, Outlook, SharePoint, Exchange Online, and Lync Online, will be offered on a subscription basis. This could be very good news for what is increasingly becoming a mobile workforce that lives and dies by their Smartphones, iPads and other thin client mobile devices.
Although Microsoft controls 94% of the market share for PC-based office productivity software (spreadsheets, word processing, etc.), the leap into subscription-based software makes sense. First, Microsoft claims that it already has 40 million customers using one or more of their cloud-centered services, so they already are successful in this space. Secondly, the subscription model helps Microsoft defend itself from the rampant software piracy that continues unabated in every corner of the world. Lastly, it gives Microsoft a chance to get paid every month by the same user, not only when they upgrade their products(s) to a new version. There is just one rather large issue I have with Microsoft 365: their competitor’s similar products (think Google Docs) are free!
The maturity of business intelligence and BI tools will continue its phenomenal and steady growth. BI platforms are becoming more function rich, mobile, collaborative, and scalable, accommodating the never ending demand for real-time ad-hoc knowledge. The next twelve months will see BI becoming more user friendly due to the BI solutions stack gravitating from an inflexible and monolithic architecture towards one that supports more customized delivery models, where self-service is the norm. The decline of static BI models of storage, data transformation, and analytics will accelerate, hastened in part by the developments that we have listed above.
About the Author
William Laurent is one of the world's leading experts in information strategy and governance. For 20 years, he has advised numerous businesses and governments on technology strategy, performance management, and best practices—across all market sectors. William currently runs an independent consulting company that bears his name. In addition, he frequently teaches classes, publishes books and magazine articles, and lectures on various technology and business topics worldwide. As Senior Contributing Author for Dashboard Insight, he would enjoy your comments at email@example.com
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