2011 will be a water-shed year as we see accelerating adoption of new technologies that work together to help companies drive greater business efficiency and effectiveness.
According to Baseline, 32% of organizations in North America with 100 or more employees are planning on increasing BI deployments in 2011. A primary driver of this is the growing momentum of the economic recovery. While it is extremely important to be more efficient and productive in tough times, as the economy improves there is a very real opportunity to grow more quickly than your competitors and hence gain market share and a greater share of the profits. Being able to make better operational decisions more quickly is key to achieving this – hence the projected growth in BI.
As we kick off the new year, we see a number of trends that will both accompany and enable the increase in BI capabilities.
Continued Cloud Computing Momentum
Since we founded and architected myDIALS as a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, we of course strongly believe in Cloud Computing. While the fastest growth in cloud computing is in the mid-market, we are also seeing movement from larger enterprises to private, public and hybrid cloud solutions that take advantage of elastic resources, ubiquitous access and Web technologies to provide new capabilities to their employees and to supply and distribution partners.
The “Masses” Will Demand Advanced Analytics
We will see more decision making based on facts – rather than intuition or “gut reactions.” Analysis of timely, relevant data must therefore be presented in a very intuitive, interactive way, along with appropriate analytics to provide insight and not just data. I don’t see analytics as providing real-time support for every single business action – due to a cultural block rather than a technology issue. However, advanced analytics for prioritized processes using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and their underlying drivers (or Key Performance Drivers/KPDs) will play a big role in users’ ability to assess the current state of their business as well as predict future outcomes. myDIALS is already pushing this agenda with sophisticated analytics, forecast projections and scenario analysis and we continue to see more ways to incorporate these capabilities into the normal decision making process for more people.
Growth of Social Analytics
There’s no question that Social Analytics will grow, as BI continues to incorporate the increasing volume of data from social media sources. The real power is when we combine the measurement and analysis of interactions among people and associations with the resulting business engagement and outcomes. Today much of the social analytics is performed in isolation of the resulting business metrics, and while it certainly helps to understand social communities, social media outreach, sentiment and share of voice, etc., this provides an incomplete picture. We should be seeking to understand how social media, communities and interactions can be drivers for business results. For example, tracking referrals from a post to the website, and then through to a goal conversion, opportunity, sale, incremental revenue and profit establishes a direct linkage and business value to that social media outreach.
Self-service BI Becomes More Mainstream
This requires not just providing information access to decision makers, but interactive capabilities that allows them to visualize relevant metrics based on their role and scope of authority, analytics to help them characterize issues, and scenario analysis to help them determine actions to take. All of this should be easy to use and understand, without needing any specific technology or statistical knowledge. Additionally, it should be easy to change layouts, visualizations and even analytic functions as required to support their specific perspectives.
Greater Demand for Automated Data Capture and Visualization
Self-service, broadly deployed BI is a hot topic but to make this a reality and not overwhelm IT, it requires automated data capture and visualization. For example, in order to make good on the true promise of determining marketing and social media ROI, it’s essential that companies have a way to bring multiple data sources together in an easy to understand and easy to use format. If done manually, as so many IT departments in the past have attempted, then it’s a painful process bound for failure. With automatic data capture and visualization, marketing decision makers at all levels can use and analyze aggregated and combined information across the spectrum: social media, website analytics, CRM, ERP, etc.
Real-time Data Update Reduces Decision Latency
Periodic, batch update of data is not sufficient to support timely decision making required in a fast moving environment. Real-time or near real-time data update reduces the latency from when an issue arises to when a decision is made and action is taken. New technology enables the real-time update of a multi-dimensional data store to support fast decision making while still enabling the multi-dimensional slicing and dicing of data necessary to identify the root cause of issues.
Mobile Access to Business Metrics Increases in Importance
Business people are not all tied to a desk or even a specific location. As an adjunct to the real-time update outlined above, being able to receive alert notifications when issues arise and then quickly access relevant information ensures rapid response. Emailed alerts and SmartPhone applications empower decision makers on the move.
SaaS Spreads to Larger Enterprises
According to a Baseline, 31% of companies plan on increasing SaaS deployments. The article states that “SaaS has weathered the gale well, has matured, and is now ready for more widespread adoption than any of the other cloud options currently being bandied about.” There are so many advantages with SaaS, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses, that this seems a very natural trend that will continue for some time. I also expect that this trend will move more aggressively to larger organizations, if not for full enterprise deployments, then at least for departmental ones.
Business Process Improvement (BPI) Will Gain Strong Footing
Ubiquitous, relevant, timely information is the framework upon which BPI is built. Not only do Business Intelligence solutions provide that information, but more importantly, the combination of BI and SaaS makes it cost-effective to deploy broadly within an organization (and even externally to partners and clients).
BI Becomes More Collaborative
Knowledge should be available within multiple contexts to help people’s understanding as they interact with BI metrics and data. Embedded definitions of visualizations and metrics provide a common base knowledge to help interpretation. Being able to access various media forms – documents, video, etc. – within the context of the specific business process and metrics extends this further with more detailed material and training. Authoring and viewing explanations and notes associated with a specific process for a specific time period provides context to everyone viewing that information, while attaching notes to individual data points to provide analysis or to signal a procedural or environmental change can enhance understanding and reduce analysis time.
About the Author
Wayne Morris has more than 25 years of experience in executive management, strategy, marketing, sales and technical roles in software, services and hardware companies. As CEO of myDIALS, Wayne helps companies optimize operational performance by connecting to multiple internal and external data sources and delivering Key Performance Indicators and Key Performance Drivers in a highly visual, intuitive, interactive dashboard suitable for all employees