The end of each year warrants a look at the key trends that may take hold in the coming months. Mobility, cloud computing, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and big data topics are clearly influencing the business intelligence industry. However, major market players such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung and others are producing the technology to make these developments possible. The question becomes: are the trends paving the way for these companies to produce the technology, or is the existence of the technology influencing the trends? I believe the latter – that Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung are the true pioneers of the BI industry.
In 2014, we're not going to see much in the way of wholly new trends, even though some experts are already forecasting more innovations. Gartner, for example, has singled out voice-controlled BI as a hot topic. However, the idea of being able to control BI processes by voice instead of through user interfaces is more of a fantasy than a realistic business requirement. Instead, the focus for 2014 will be on developments that are already possible and how to integrate these into the corporate IT environment. Big data for one has been a subject of discussion for years. In 2014, there will be more talk about the benefits and value provided by the increasingly larger amounts of data. Primarily though, it is the underlying technical innovations created by industry giants such as Amazon and Apple that are driving the development of BI and the requirements of the market.
Mobile BI Thanks to Tablets and Smartphones
Innovations like the tablet and smartphone – a market in which Android dominates today – have been rapidly adopted by users. Businesses too are now recognizing the benefits of mobile devices for everyday work. Whether in sales or marketing, in the future almost every employee will want to link portable devices with corporate networks. Already 60% of employees in Germany, where I live, spend at least some of their time working on the road or in a home office – and this figure is rising. According to IDC, 37% of office personnel will be working entirely on a mobile basis 2 years from now. This intensifies the pressure on IT departments to enable access to an increasing number of corporate applications via smartphones and tablets, thus enabling business processes to be managed regardless of location. This reliance on mobility is attributable to the rapid progress in the field of mobile devices in the consumer segment. Innovations in this area are really what enable flexible mobile BI software like arcplan's to exist in the first place.
Amazon – the Proverbial Midwife for Cloud BI
The advantages of cloud BI are plain to see. Regarding of the size of a company and its needs, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions can be tailored to the specific requirements of businesses. A dedicated data center is no longer necessary, which enables massive cost savings. The primary pioneer in this field of services is Amazon. With its web service AWS, Amazon has been the successful undisputed market leader for years. For example, if a business needs a Windows server with a database solution for a BI application, Amazon – the largest infrastructure-as-a-service provider – can offer this environment within just a few minutes. Amazon has laid the foundation for ubiquitous and cost-effective cloud BI, which is becoming a more and more popular deployment strategy. Even traditional BI vendors are now offering a cloud option. Wayne Eckerson's recent benchmark report on BI in the Cloud states that three quarters of businesses that have already deployed cloud BI intend to expand its footprint further in 2014. It's certainly a growing market segment that will likely continue its trajectory next year.
Self-Service Drives Employee Efficiency
With internationalization, increasingly complex business processes and rapidly changing markets, businesses need to collect, analyze and process ever greater amounts of information. This is why many businesses employ BI and performance management solutions, but the process if often flawed from the outset: users outline their needs and IT tries to satisfy them. Such an approach is not only complicated, but also error-prone and costly. Therefore, in order to make decisions more rapidly, employees want more direct access to business data independent of the IT department. Self-service business intelligence is ideal for this purpose as business processes can be made more efficient and more productive when they are autonomous. For example, self-service BI enables users to create dashboards and ad-hoc reports, something that was previously only possible with the aid of IT specialists. Thanks to user-friendly devices from Apple and Samsung and self-service tools from the likes of Google, the technical basis that makes user customization possible in the first place has been established.
BI trends for many businesses in recent years have primarily been theoretical constructs with little in the way of tangible benefits. In 2014, it's time to turn these theories into practical applications with real business benefits. The foundation is there through innovations from Apple, Amazon and others; the progress they've made in the consumer market is spilling over into the enterprise, pushing vendors to provide user-friendly BI solutions that meet the needs of modern workers. Get yourself a new tablet and support the trends!