We thought we’d close out the year with a round-up of the best articles of 2011 from arcplan’s Business Intelligence Blog. Catch up on stories you missed or look back on highlights from the year in BI.
BI Dashboards. We covered this topic a lot, from dashboard design tips to best practices. Remember these articles?
Mobile BI. Since we launched arcplan Mobile in 2011, we had mobile business intelligence on the brain.
Cloud BI. 2011 was the year that cloud emerged as a massive IT trend. Check out our thoughts.
Last week, our CEO posted an article about his own predictions for BI in 2012. After reading it, I thought about surveying arcplan employees about the trends they see coming to the forefront over the next 12 months. They suggested that the hype around mobile, collaborative, and cloud BI that we saw this year will come to fruition in 2012. We published a press release today that highlights these trends and what we can expect to see next year:
BI Trends 2012 – From Hype to Breakthrough
The market for Business Intelligence (BI) in 2011 was shaped by three much-hyped themes: mobile BI, collaborative BI and cloud BI. While vendors and analysts are driving the buzz around these new technologies, users have thus far hesitated to fully embrace them as they explore what their business benefits might be. Will 2012 be the year that mobile, collaborative and cloud BI go mainstream? Global BI innovator arcplan dares to look into its crystal ball to see what technologies will break through in the coming year.
Mobile BI – Simplified Entry
The hype around mobile BI was clear this year, but did the talk result in concrete implementations? According to The BI Survey 10 from analysts BARC, only 8% of companies using BI software access their reports in mobile form – an astonishingly low number if you consider that mobile BI is being lauded by analysts and the media as the next big thing, and users are clamoring for mobile solutions.
So why hasn’t this hype translated to action yet? So far, Apple has dominated the market for mobile devices with the iPhone and iPad, which are only conditionally compatible with business applications. This will change in 2012 when Microsoft and Phone 7 return to the market with a focus on both the business sector and the consumer market, which will set it apart from Apple. Companies are looking beyond the Apple platform for cost-effective mobile BI solutions, and in 2012, they will encounter Microsoft’s new Metro Design, which will simplify entry into mobile BI tremendously. This concept, fueled by clean typeface and balanced design, can be used on Phone 7 as well as any other mobile device and is well suited for business applications. Furthermore, Web apps – in contrast to native apps – will meet the demand for an efficient entry into the world of mobile business applications. Due to their develop once/deploy anywhere nature, they offer businesses the chance to productively use mobile BI apps on any platform (Apple, Microsoft, Android, etc.) and independent of cumbersome approval processes or other restrictions in manufacturer-controlled app stores.
Collaborative BI – The Democratization of Knowledge
2012 will be the year in which companies realize the promise of collaborative BI when information becomes democratized…
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.
In my last post on this subject, I talked about the benefits of cloud computing, especially when it comes to deploying BI in the cloud. The advantages are numerous, but there are also drawbacks that need to be considered before responsibly moving forward. Here are some of the arguments we hear about from our customers and how business intelligence providers have already thought of ways to curb them:
Data security. Security is a concern for IT and business professionals alike. Since your business performance data is stored externally in a cloud model, data management and protection is in the hands of the provider – not your IT department. For regulated environments such as the pharmaceutical, healthcare and financial services industries however, data security is paramount and their information may never be stored off-site. However, it’s still possible to deploy your BI in the cloud even if your data needs to be stored on the premises. It simply involves storing your data on-site behind firewalls and running your queries and reports over the web in a browser. Your data never leaves the premises so you maintain your own data security, but you still benefit from less hardware costs and time saved from not having to install the BI software on every machine or mobile device. It’s a win-win. You can learn more about this particular style of deploying cloud BI in our webinar, A Roadmap for BI Cloud Computing, which is available as a recording here.
Data backup. Though it’s a cost-saving measure to dump your backup servers, having your backup and storage off-site can keep you up at night. If your company is dependent on the cloud provider’s backup and redundancy services to preserve data if any issues arise, you better hope you chose your vendor wisely :-). No seriously, the method we just touched on where data is actually stored on the premises is a compromise that can alleviate this issue.
“Cloud computing” is a term that’s thrown around a lot today, but it simply means accessing your data and applications without on-site infrastructure, i.e. in the cloud. Data processing, storage and backup, maintenance, administration and even troubleshooting are all taken care of by the service provider.
Some of us (like me) were skeptical when everything started being labeled as “cloud.” The thought of not having a trusted IT department maintain control of data and hardware was a little unsettling at first. But after considering the pros and cons of cloud computing (and also realizing that I use cloud services like Gmail and Salesforce.com every day without hesitation), the advantages became clear, even for business intelligence.
Implementing BI in the cloud is a dilemma for a lot of organizations we work with. They’re (rightly) concerned about data security, hardware failure, and anything that could take their reports offline, slow employees’ decision-making process, or expose valuable information to the wrong people. Those are all concerns that have been and continue to be addressed by cloud providers. Certainly data security and back-ups have become paramount to vendors offering cloud services. But as we hear less and less about massive cloud failures in the news and executives and IT managers get more comfortable with the cloud, we’ve seen a shift toward the cloud becoming acceptable for business intelligence deployments. Here’s why:
The cloud offers access to data, applications and other resources without the need for program installation. This equals major convenience when doing work on a portable device like a laptop, tablet PC or smartphone. Not only are your devices free from the clutter of numerous installs (which facilitates effective use of resources), but your company’s IT team isn’t bogged down with installing, reinstalling, and troubleshooting numerous devices for each employee. And since many of us work remotely occasionally, if not exclusively, a lightweight approach to accessing data is truly beneficial.