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The Future of Business Intelligence (BI)

Many executives now see business intelligence, or its abbreviated acronym BI, as a key buzzword. What does this mean for the future of business?

Let’s start with the size of the business intelligence market. Just a year ago, experts were projecting a need for an additional 1.5 million data handling business intelligence professionals, just in the U.S., with a projected business intelligence and analytics market of over $20 billion within three years. Since then, we’ve seen some of these numbers borne out in the rapid trend towards business intelligence adoption.

With business intelligence tools so front and center in today’s marketplace, what will we see happen to this sort of popular business methodology as we move forward into 2017 and beyond?

Collaborative Business Intelligence

One of the key trends many experts are predicting is a growth of the digital business intelligence world into a more “cooperative space, where tools and platforms will become more broad-spectrum and eventually, more collaborative.

Whereas many of today’s tools are isolated in silos, independently operated by users, and not connected to a broader network, there is somewhat of a consensus that the next generation of business intelligence will be geared toward larger sets of users – and more connected to greater systems.

In a prescient ComputerWeekly article in December of 2015, Brian McKenna talked about this kind of innovation in the business intelligence field, saying business intelligence will be provided via “shared, immersive analytic experiences.”

“BI development has been focussed on small form-factor devices, but the locus will now shift to very large touch devices,” McKenna wrote. “This will enable teams of colleagues to work towards decisions through the side by side exploration of data in real thought time.”

This type of trend is now evident, with the expansion of some BI platforms toward more evolved collaborative and machine learning systems.

Business Intelligence Actualization Will Drive Insight and Self-Service

Another key concept around the future of business intelligence is that as marketers glean more and more data about users, those users will jump on the bandwagon and get proactive about studying themselves. This can lead to more transparent data markets and a more engaged community.

At the same time, a leveling out of advanced data-gathering technologies will provide more self-service analysis. Technologies like JSON and will bring more diverse data into the common Internet, and allow it to be “matched,” linked and manipulated in new and interesting ways. An article from Tableau at the end of 2016 suggests that this greater access to data will drive more engagement.

“People will have business discussions using data, engaging each other with facts and insights,” Francois Ajenstat wrote. “They’ll also be able to collaborate more easily with experts in the organization and drive insights faster by leveraging the collective intelligence of the organization.”

Data “Proactivity” – More Passive Users

Another likely trend rests on common ideas about what happens when you deliver more demographic and market data to business networks armed with ever-advancing analytical and automation tools.

Eventually, you get to a place where business intelligence work doesn’t have to be jump-started by human users anymore. Instead, you reach a tipping point where you’re more likely to passively receive this intelligence than you are to go looking for it in a report, or even on a dashboard.

Up to this point, companies have been widely trumpeting innovation in their visual dashboard designs. Features like more sophisticated charting and graphing have become paramount. Data visualization has become the watchword. But some suggest that with this type of advanced being pretty well saturated, we are about see tools get a lot more proactive in automatically delivering BI to recipients.

A 2011 Quora post by Jason Kolb shows emphasis on this trend has been building for a while.

“Relevant data will find you, and not vice versa,” Kolb wrote, talking about trends like real-time deep analysis and more personalized data, several years prior to the current marketplace, where we’re already seeing some of these “AI” types of advances deliver rich data to consumers and business users. Now, as we enter 2017, sources like this Targit article are still hinting at the self-service, user-friendly innovations and proactivity to come.

Network Advancements

At the same time, as software technologies are doing more with BI data, new networking structures are emerging to handle these massive troves of data and their flow into and out of business systems.

We’ve seen the cloud take over large swathes of the business world, where third-party companies offer a raft of services to individual clients to help them manage business intelligence and analytical data. But behind that vendor wall, you have advances like network virtualization. Here, engineers are figuring out new ways to deploy hardware architectures, and to automatically scale with the volume of data. New technologies like container architectures are also helping this process along.

One major player in the data revolution is Apache — with a range of Hadoop and related open source tools, the Apache foundation has played a critical role. However, paid services like Amazon Web services are also major participants in the rush to provide architectural support for all of the new business intelligence methods hitting the executive’s desk.

All of this describes some of the modern advances in business intelligence as we continue to progress through the era of big data. The future of business intelligence is likely to be much more automated and aggressively utilized, with fewer bottlenecks in terms of interface limitations and the free flow of data. It’s all part of a quickly evolving model that businesses don’t want to lose out on in the years to come.

Michael ShearerThe Future of Business Intelligence (BI)

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