Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cool BI: Rating The Latest Innovations

Cindi Howson published yesterday in Intelligent Enterprise, a good article called Cool BI: Rating The Latest Innovations, where she examines the BI innovations thinking about them in terms of maturity, value, and pervasiveness:

Maturity: Consider the technology's maturity, particularly in its integration with BI. Some innovations have been making inroads into BI for years, whereas others are more recent.

Value: Consider the value of the innovation, either to reduce BI's cost of ownership, improve productivity, or increase BI's contribution to business performance. Some BI deployments focus on the value of a single, big decision. At these companies, BI is often deployed first to the experts and analysts. Other firms look for improvement on all the little decisions that may have a small individual impact yet a huge aggregate contribution to results.

Pervasiveness: While many vendors have trumpeted the rallying cry for "mainstream BI" or "pervasive BI," BI adoption even among established practitioners is relatively low at 25 percent of employees within the company. In evaluating innovations, recognize that each will appeal to different user segments as illustrated in the chart at right. Advanced visualization, for example, is powerful for business analysts, whereas BI search is ideal for casual users, and embedded BI helps front-line workers. Mobile BI has big potential for executives and front-line workers, but the business analysts who are currently the largest BI constituency may say it's not at all important. Innovations that make BI more pervasive are not necessarily more important than those that benefit power users; the point is to recognize that different user segments will benefit more from certain innovations.

She defines a quadrant chart with several BI innovations according to these three factors. Maturity is along the X axis, pervasiveness is along the Y axis, and the size and color of the bubble indicates the financial value:

She describes some of them and also a bottom line about the innovation:

Rich Reportlets

The term "rich reportlets" refers to the influence of rich internet applications (RIA) in the BI world.
Bubbles and trend lines dancing across a page may not seem essential to BI techies, but ask business users which tool they'd rather use and they'll vote for a rich reportlet. When you are trying to change the way people work, don't underestimate the power of the cool factor in getting them to try new tools.
Beyond the appeal of these interfaces, rich reportlets contribute substance to BI.

Bottom line: embrace rich reportlets and interfaces for their ability to make BI engaging to existing users and more appealing to new classes of users.

In-Memory Analytics

In-memory analytics has been around for years, so why the recent buzz? The answer lies in a combination of:
- Increasing adoption of 64-bit operating systems and greater availability of addressable memory
- Lower costs for random access memory (RAM )
- How in-memory analytics are used and delivered
- Shifts in user expectations for speed-of-thought analysis

Bottom Line: There was a time when users were happy to get a weekly report. Today, the pace of business demands fast data access and even faster insight. 64-bit technology provides greater scalability to in-memory tools and is gaining greater adoption and support.

Web 2.0 Meets BI

The collaborative side of the Web is so prevalent and accepted by a new generation of workers that we have to contemplate the effects on BI. She suggests that social networking could solve some of BI's greatest challenges:

- Information overload
- Information hoarding
- Providing insights to the most appropriate people to decrease the time to decision

Bottom Line: Some of social networking's influence on BI certainly has a high "cool" factor, but the business value is not yet proven. Nonetheless, the potential to extend the reach of BI, reduce information overload and give users greater autonomy make this an important area to watch.

She also talked about a few other innovations: Open Source BI, Software as a Service, BI Search, Mobile BI and Predictive Analytics.

About Predictive Analytics, she said: This is a mature capability but one that continues to remain a specialist tool and task. Encompassing predictive analytics within a total BI deployment means more people can benefit from predictive discoveries and insights. This is both a strategic issue and a technical issue. With SAS and Teradata closely partnering and SPSS striking deals with Business Objects and Cognos, the convergence of BI and predictive analytics continues to gain momentum.

Cindi Howson is an expert of BI Industry and this is a good article about the BI innovations. She is the founder of BIScorecard, a Web site for in-depth BI product reviews.

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