Business intelligence living up to its lofty name

Business intelligence (BI), once thought to be a dying technology, has ballooned in recent months to become a top IT priority once again. 

Decision-makers are leveraging advanced data analytics for its ability to provide real-time insights into a number of categories – consumer trends, cybersecurity, predicting the effectiveness of future tech projects and more. Because of the vast capabilities of these solutions, the BI and data analytics market is set to rise 9 percent over the next three years to surpass $25 billion, according to a recent study from Technology Business Research.

Perhaps more remarkable than the sector's rapid growth is how quickly it's evolved. Not too long ago, BI applications were primarily reserved for IT departments. Now, however, data analytics is starting to reach every level of the business, from salespeople and marketers all the way to the top brass. It's at the point where business intelligence has almost become an enterprise strategy in and of itself, as opposed to being a tool that's used as part of the overall plan.

At least that's the belief of Eric Lundquist, a tech analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments. In a recent column for eWeek, Lundquist suggested that as organizations implement data analytics more directly into their business plans, they are "transforming into intelligent businesses."

BI's impact on the big and the small
Lundquist said this evolution has, in large part, resulted from the immense amount of information that is produced outside of company databases, making note of the necessity of understanding customer trends and sentiment to survive in today's business world. 

"As the rapid expansion of data across the enterprise creates headaches for customers and opportunities for innovative vendors, understanding customer needs and vendor capabilities becomes even more critical," said Elizabeth Henlin, an analyst at Technology Business Research. 

There is still a significant need for traditional BI, especially in areas such as security and fraud prevention. For instance, if IT leaders know that their networks have specific vulnerabilities, they can use business intelligence applications to detect cyberattacks and breaches right when they occur. 

At the same time, the major driving force in the data analytics market is "making better use of … those vast pools of data outside your firm," Lundquist said. This is especially true with regard to understanding consumer sentiment, as customers are increasingly using social media, mobile devices and other web-based platforms to voice their opinions about products and services. 

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