Originally published December 13, 2011
The business intelligence (BI) industry is constantly changing. Former industry trends and features found on company wish lists have become current capabilities within most BI offerings. For instance, larger data sets can be stored, organizations can analyze data on the fly through in-memory analytics and solutions are becoming easier to interact with irrespective of company role. And all of this is becoming possible at lower price points to enable broader adoption. In the past, many of these features were considered nice-to-haves instead of general expectations. Now companies expect business intelligence to provide them with historical and predictive analytical capabilities, while enabling broader use across the organization by meeting the needs of varying skill sets. Adding social media to the mix leads to greater expectations existing in relation to intuitive interfaces and ease of use, regardless of comfort with technology.
All of this leads to a promise of easier and broader access to analytics that provide better overall business decision making, more process efficiencies, and greater cost management, with the goal of reaching a wider audience to address more varied business challenges. In addition, because of the merge of ease of use and broader analytics, business intelligence is starting to live up to its promise of being a valuable tool that organizations cannot do without. Practically speaking, what does this really mean? Are companies able to merge ease of use with advanced analytics to achieve what social BI promises?
The reality is that business intelligence is still growing in relation to its ability to deliver solutions that provide easy access to agile analytics regardless of company role. In terms of BI delivery, more solutions exist today that address the needs of the market as well as industry trends that tie in social networking functionality with a forward- looking approach to analytics. For instance, the BI landscape is filled with trends that encompass:
These trends lead to demands for:
The overlaps between trends and types of desired use point to the need for more interactive tools that combine complexity, data volumes and higher levels of interactivity. Although this sounds intuitive to some, the reality remains that many BI offerings provide high level features and a broad range of functionality to enable deep dives into business problems and performance, but do not provide intuitive interfaces that provide BI access to the masses. In addition, within current BI environments, upgrading or enabling social networking capabilities may not be the reality. This can leave companies wondering what options exist when looking at expanding their BI use.
For some organizations, collaboration involves integrating their BI solutions with SharePoint or providing broader access to customers or partners through online portals to enable broader visibility and transparency. For other companies, the goal is to share information across departments internally, allowing for broader participation in a variety of business-oriented projects. The level of true collaboration and social networking currently remains limited to the BI infrastructure within the organization and the corporate culture that will either provide support for broader collaborative infrastructures or create potential stumbling blocks.
When looking at BI use specifically, it’s important to identify how market demands are pushing the need for social BI and how organizations can push their use to the next level. This can be achieved through software adoption and/or changes within BI culture and overall BI use. The following takes identified market demands to the next level by looking at how they affect organizations and how vendor offerings are addressing their needs.
How do all of these trends and demands relate to social business intelligence? The reality is that offerings that provide all of these functions do exist. Organizations can take advantage of social business intelligence to drive adoption and interaction to the next level. The problem is that these solutions are relatively unknown within the larger marketplace, and traditional BI vendors are still slow at transitioning toward a self-service and social networking conscious solution. Luckily, the continuing adoption of social networking within organizations and mobile access to business applications will continue to drive the focus on social BI interactions and broader ease of use.
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