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We’re coming up on the end of the year – a time when we hopefully have a few moments during the busy holiday rush to think about what next year will bring. For us in the BI world, that means trying to stay ahead of trends so we can continue to bring you the world-class solutions you need to get insight from your data.
I believe that 2012 will be all about bringing business intelligence to users wherever they are. That means self-service, mobile BI, and collaboration will be on everyone’s minds.
The idea of self-service BI is taking root in organizations large and small. Business users want to easily access and analyze data without having to use complex tools or rely on IT. Solution providers like arcplan are trying to reach the non-power-users who need insight into corporate data as much as anyone.
Mobile BI and collaborative BI have been named trends before, but in 2012, they are poised to take off. A quarter of organizations surveyed in the BI Survey 10 plan to implement mobile BI in the next 12 months. Businesses are moving from planning to actual deployment as executives and road warriors become increasingly more comfortable with smartphones and tablets, and IT finds ways to ensure data security.
A growing number of businesses are looking into cloud services for everything from document storage to CRM to BI. Some are choosing to go the private cloud route out of security concerns, while others are being forced into the public cloud since they want to use publicly available, third-party information as part of their BI (like Google Maps or Hoovers data for mash-ups). Hybrid clouds might offer the best of both worlds. Let’s explore each type of cloud a bit further.
The Case for Cloud
The case for moving business intelligence to the cloud often comes down to resources: the physical hardware that stores the data, the staff that has to maintain the hardware, and the money that’s spent on all of this. Companies are looking to reduce or reallocate all three of these resources, and cloud computing gives them a way to do this.
However, when it comes to BI, you have a lot of vendors who haven’t fully moved to the cloud yet because of the sheer volume of data they’re helping to manage. A customer who is using arcplan on top of Teradata has terabytes of data that will never make it into the cloud – it would be too much to move, and likely, a waste of time and energy. Nevertheless we’ve seen many companies start to make the move to the cloud because of its wide-ranging benefits.
Private vs. Public Cloud for BI
Cloud adoption is increasing in popularity and private clouds are getting a lot of attention; a 2011 Info-Tech survey shows that 76% of IT decision-makers will focus initially or, in the case of 33% of respondents, exclusively on the private cloud (infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether it’s internally or externally hosted). Some IT teams want to explore cloud computing within their own walls first and see how it goes, though others concede that private clouds aren’t really “cloud” at all, especially if they’re hosted on-premise (which eliminates the benefits of reduced costs and resources to maintain the infrastructure). If you have a massive data center at your location and you dedicate a portion of it to a particular set of data and applications, like your supply chain BI data & dashboards, then that could be considered a private cloud. The private cloud offers tighter controls and data security that’s managed according to your particular company’s standards.
True cloud is closer to Amazon’s EC2 public cloud.
What’s the most popular reporting and planning tool out there? As much as I’d like the answer to be “arcplan” – it’s not. Even in 2011, it’s “Excel.” Excel has been around for 25 years and believe it or not, it’s still the most often used technology in 60% of the organizations surveyed by Ventana Research in August 2011.
There are so many reasons analysts and planners love Excel: it’s easy to use, adjusting reports takes seconds, it’s the perfect tool for local ad-hoc analysis, and it has an extensive formula and function library to address complex calculations. On the other hand, there are times when Excel falls short. After the manual process of collecting, consolidating and reconciling data, Excel leaves little to no time for actual analysis. And worst of all, you may find that your data is outdated or fraught with errors, which compromises your ability to make business-critical decisions. Unfortunately, Excel also lacks data security, which is a paramount concern for IT professionals.
Truly, I’m not bashing Excel here. I’m a data analyst myself and I help our clients develop Excel-like BI applications, so I understand that Excel has its benefits. Power users are going to want to use Excel, at least for the foreseeable future. So consider this how you can reconcile the use of Excel at your organization. The answer may be as simple as your BI system’s Excel add-in!