Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Introducing Business Intelligence 2.0

Every technology undergoes innovation, evolution and experimentation to best meet the needs of changing times. It seems like the time has come to move beyond Business Intelligence (BI) 1.0 and start talking about BI 2.0. MIT-Sloan Management Review in a recently published survey titled “Analytics: the New Path to Value” identified the top 3 analytical techniques creating value for the organization evolving from historical trend analysis, standardized reporting and data visualization to simulations and scenario development, analytics applied within the business processes and data visualization. Other analyst firms like Gartner are validating this view and have identified one of the key future trends in business intelligence as a shift in the use of the BI system. According to Gartner, BI practitioners today are increasingly using their BI systems beyond measurement or reporting and more for the purposes of analysis, forecasting and optimization. In my view this is a “tipping point” in the evolution of BI technology and hence the coming of age of BI 2.0.

So, what does a BI 2.0 system look like? I think a BI 2.0 system is best described by outlining the top 5 capabilities that such a system exhibits. From my perspective, here are the top 5 BI 2.0 capabilities in no particular order:
  •  Beyond measurement to scenario modeling, forecasting and optimization: BI 2.0 systems will include capabilities beyond standardized reporting, dashboards and ad-hoc query to scenario modeling and simulation capabilities like what-if analysis, forecasting and optimization. As organizations evolve and mature in the use of BI technologies, it’s only natural to move away from reactive to proactive mode of doing business and hence the shift in system capabilities from historical to forward looking predictive analysis.
  •  In-business process analytics: As businesses realize the benefits of better insights, better decisions and faster actions; BI capabilities will be more pervasive and better integrated within the business processes. The next evolution of the ERP systems will be around “intelligent” process automation driving BI capabilities within business process. As organizations become efficient and learn to do more with less, BI will no longer be an afterthought and would be directly embedded with the business process making the process more efficient.
  •  Support for “Big Data”: Businesses today are generating data at tremendous volume and speed. The so called “machine generated data” e.g. the data generated through web logs, RFID sensors etc. far out paces “human generated data”. A number of new technologies like Hadoop, columnar databases, NoSQL databases have come to age to solve the big data storage and analysis problem. The various data management technologies like relational, multidimensional, distributed file based data management systems solve specific business problems and would continue to thrive within the enterprise IT infrastructure. Big data presents interesting opportunities like analyzing the customer behavioral and attitudinal data to identify new revenue opportunities. BI 2.0 systems will provide ubiquitous access to multiple enterprise data sources via enterprise wide semantic layer ensuring conformance, single version of the truth and federation.
  •  Insight to Action: BI 2.0 systems will deliver a closed loop analytics cycle by not only delivering the insights but also providing the ability to act on the insights. The BI and business process management technologies will come together delivering capabilities to initiate a business process directly from the BI dashboards. So, how does the Insight to Action Framework delivers value? Well it makes it easier and faster for your Business users to take the next step from gaining insights to acting on them. E.g. an accounts receivable manager might notice on his dashboard that DSO is trending up, and by drilling down, may see a late payment trend by few customers. By placing a credit hold on the problem customers he/she can take action on his/her DSO trending up problem. In this scenario, the account receivables manager never had to send out emails or call people or access different systems to figure out the next steps. The next steps are pre-build in the analytics system and just a click away.
  • Always on, collaborative and consumerized BI: Personal tools and productivity devices like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Smart phones and Tablets are changing the way we consume information. Information is available 24*7, on the go and from the convenience of your mobile device. Gartner’s term “iphonesque” illustrates the simple, mobile and fun aspect desired by users off of their BI systems today. BI 2.0 systems will embrace the changing paradigm and will be simple, easy, mobile, collaborative and fun.

In conclusion, exciting times lie ahead for the BI community. BI 2.0 systems with some of the exciting new capabilities outlined above will change how businesses gain insights, take decisions and act faster. BI 2.0 offers new promises to better analyze disparate data sources and identify opportunities for top line and bottom line growth. Stay tuned as we continue to innovate and evolve.

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