Five business intelligence trends for 2013

Business analytics is has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past 12 months. So, in light of its rise here's five trends to look out for this year that are set to help companies live up to the hype.

Over the past 12 months there have been some significant developments in the information management (IM) and business intelligence (BI) space. The world has been focused on the idea of big data, the technology behind it and the promise of strong competitive advantage and insight previously considered unfeasible.

But, can the big data hype really be lived up to and how will the technology landscape shift in 2013? Below are a few trends that we believe are going to gain momentum this year. Question is, are you ready for them?

Agile IM 

The agile development approach to information management will continue to grow in popularity in 2013 as Australian organisations demand faster, more measurable returns on their BI investments. An agile approach can be used to incrementally remove operational costs and if deployed correctly, can return great benefits to any organisation.

Unlike the traditional waterfall methodology, where planning is all done upfront, agile IM delivery folds 80 per cent of planning into the actual program deployment. This not only gets projects off the ground faster and gives the business results sooner, but yields much better requirements, so the effectiveness of the development team increases dramatically.

In a research study ‘Adoption of agile methods among business intelligence and data warehousing development teams’ conducted by TDWI and Ceregenics in 2012, 82 per cent of respondents found increased success with agile projects. 

Cloud BI

More organisations in Australia will adopt cloud BI solutions in 2013 due in part to the need to lessen the burden on internal IT resources and the desire for low initial investment cost in a tight economic climate. The lines between on-premises and cloud deployments will blur in 2013. However, the challenge for these organisations will be how to get their information into the cloud and the quality of data they are transferring and planning to analyse.

Most large organisations in Australia are reluctant to transfer all of their data into the cloud, preferring to ‘dip their toes in the water’ with less sensitive data. The greatest challenge for organisations is the logistical issue of actually moving data into the cloud. They need to look at the security network and bandwidth, the quality of the data they are transferring and planning to analyse and think about a usable interface.

Once data has been transferred to the cloud, there are numerous cost-effective BI tools available for organisations to take advantage of.

Mobile BI

Mobile business intelligence offers huge advantages for Australian organisations, particularly those with increasingly mobile and remote workforces. It means that staff and management are never disconnected from the tools that help them make business decisions.

Mobile business applications have become a vital part of most organisations. The increase in maturity and adoption of mobile technology has created a workforce reliant upon instant access to information. Business intelligence is no exception.

As the power available on handheld devices increases, coupled with greater bandwidth such as Telstra’s 4G network and the National Broadband Network roll out, the ability to crunch information on mobile devices will become easier.

With smartphones, a lot of future computing is actually web-centric. Rendering a complex webpage today is less resource intensive and faster on a smartphone than it was a decade ago on technically faster CPUs.

However, mobile is still only a delivery channel enabled by web based server side delivery. If a CIO drives a cloud agenda, it’s more likely to enable a mobile agenda. Due to the ease of consumption, more C-level executives will see the value of better business decision making, more often, when and where they need it.

Analytics

Analytics is the next progression of modern BI and we expect this area to grow at a dramatic pace during 2013. It uses algorithms to search for patterns and explanations and looks at historical data to predict future activity for better business decision making.  While BI has traditionally been hard to create a business case for, analytics has a direct correlation to an organisation’s top or bottom line.

More Australian organisations will use predictive analytics this year to help them ‘predict’ human behaviour, so what customers will want buy for example or in which areas crime is more likely to occur. Similarly, associative analytics will gain momentum in 2013 as organisations try to capture and store associations between people, places and things. A colleague may return from a conference for example and can’t remember the name of the person they met, but can remember where they worked and what their role was. Associative analytics enables you to search a list of contact names to get all the possible matches.

As memory becomes cheaper, we’ll also continue to witness the increasing popularity of in-memory analytics in 2013. In-memory analytics tools—such as Qlikview, Spofire and Tableau—allow for the querying and analysing of data from a computer’s RAM, resulting in quick and simple data exploration for BI and analytic applications.

Enterprise data warehouses can be designed in this way to take advantage of in-memory analytics tools, resulting in a much lighter areas of data. An organisation can therefore add data sources very quickly and not pre-calculate fixed consolidation paths. We’re already seeing a few Australian organisations adopt this approach and expect this to continue in 2013.

Big Data

The past 12 months has seen the information management and business intelligence world abuzz with the idea of big data. The big data movement arose out of need for a better way to manage rapidly growing volumes of data and a desire to make use of that information for quicker decision making.

In 2013 however, savvy businesses will find sophisticated analysis and strategic direction not from big data but smart data. Rather than adding more data, most organisations could truly benefit from identifying the most appropriate variables to their models. Becoming shrewder with the data an organisation already holds is what we call smart data. Smart data looks at making the most of available data (both structured and unstructured) and concentrating on specific signals rather than trawling vast amounts of data.

The ability to fit a twitter feed or Facebook page into something sensible, or crawl through the thousands of documents that exist on networks via a Google type search and bring that back into a structured format that can be integrated for example with a Cognos report is where the gold is.

 These trends will converge over the next couple of years and executives will be doing analytics on their mobile devices based on big data enabled cloud services, with solutions developed out of an agile approach. The organisations that embrace these new business intelligence trends, and take steps to change and adapt the way data is hosted, analysed, used and delivered, will be the ones that grow and prosper in 2013 and well beyond. 

Conrad Bates is a managing partner at C3 Business Solutions.