With the exponential growth of data, there is a new concern in the data analytics and Business Intelligence world: how to achieve the best data visualization. We need to present data in a way that can communicate insights to decision-makers and benefit any employee. The trend is to create more digestible and user-friendly dashboards and reports.
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The march of progress is present in the types of business intelligence software deployed in workplaces around the world. This makes sense: Companies today define themselves by their IT footprints, and BI remains relevant no matter the industry or subject matter. Therefore, it's natural that analytics programs will receive close attention and a selection of great features. Organizations are filling their decision-making processes with an infusion of data, a move that seems to have made it impossible to go back to making choices via intuition – after all, if rival companies have a direct line to their data, firms without such access could be in trouble.
The Current Wave and the Next
There are many different trends flowing through the BI ecosystem at any time. Its evolution is not a one-sided process, nor is it one that can be completed all at once. IT Business Edge contacted one of its industry partners to determine where the feature development timeline is now and where it will be later in 2015. The source noted 2014 had its own share of futuristic upgrades, focusing on granting capabilities such as mobile BI access and the use of big data sets instead of the structured groupings that have traditionally held that role. Of course, time's march has made those elements a part of the milieu and brought a new crop to the fore.
As for the year at hand, the content displayed on dashboards may be set to shift. IT Business Edge reported that specialization and simplicity are on tap in the way data is displayed visually. Dashboards present representations of abstract numbers that make them immediately accessible and useful for the employees who need to act on the conveyed information. The source noted that any sort of general dashboard containing every metric needed by anyone in the company will be too complex, bordering on unreadable. A series of dashboards that each target a specific role can give better insights.
The Future is Here
While customized and well-designed dashboards are being presented as this year's new trend, they have already arrived. Necto 14, for instance, allows its users to see only the facts that impact them directly. This means that CEOs and other top officials can have the zoomed-out view that allows them to act in the interest of many departments at once, while highly specialized workers delve into their own verticals with drill-down metrics to make snap decisions accurately. This sort of personalized experience is part of the bedrock that supports true self-service BI.
There are many different fields that can benefit from an infusion of business intelligence and analytics technology, and thinking about the software's purpose highlights why this might be. Namely, BI is designed to improve decisions, and there is no company in the world that couldn't do with some surety and direction when it comes to determining a wise course of action. This is probably the fact that has kept BI in the headlines for the past few years as new features have debuted and the technology has rolled out across an increasing number of important and influential verticals, even those that aren't usually early adopters of IT breakthroughs.
The real effects on real estate
A recent Globe St. interview with IT field insider Justin Alanis indicated that there is a certain urgency surrounding real estate firms' adoption of analytics. Without this software, Alanis warned, companies could find themselves behind the curve and unable to keep up with rivals that went ahead and made the investment. The actual use of the BI software will not be limited to a few professional roles, either. Alanis told the source that adoption will be widespread, with professionals throughout the corporate structure each taking on some functions, differentiated by role.
Some individuals will be more interested in granular information and others will take the log view. Alanis explained that this will depend on the role. A company's CEO will want to understand where that firm stands in all its markets at that moment. The individuals responsible for certain territories will be more interested in any information that directly impacts them. Alanis noted this division of roles becomes much easier if there is a dashboard for every individual. He advised that this method ensures there are no key variables missing, which may happen if project managers decide to only create one dashboard that suits everyone.
This differentiated approach to BI usability is a classic self-service example. Every employee is presented with a series of visual tools that suits his or her unique perspective and needs, clearing away the need for an antiquated model in which a few IT workers were the arbiters of all BI processes, trying to split their time between all the many requests coming in. Products such as Necto 14 are critical in these situations, giving leaders the tools they need to set every worker up with access to ideal dashboards. Whether selling properties or anything else, BI can help teams determine if their tactics are on-point.
It may be time for leaders without business intelligence solutions in place to question what is preventing them from making the jump. The idea has been around for decades and received several amendments in recent years – the addition of everything from big data compatibility to mobile access. Equipped with these newly powerful solutions, companies can answer their pressing performance questions and potentially outmaneuver the other members of their industries. In fact, firms that do not become adopters soon could find that their rivals have made the jump and end up behind, still making choices through the intuition of a few leaders rather than data.
Everyone's a data user
According to Enterprise Apps Today, BI is not just expanding to new companies, it is reaching all levels within businesses. This means that the dream of self-service BI is coming to pass. The source noted that research in early 2013 found that there was little penetration of BI into departments outside of a select few IT users, but that has changed. The new source comes from BARC, and Enterprise Apps Today explained that this latest survey detected 55 percent of respondents are now self-service BI users and 24 percent are on their way. Reaching more than half of employees is a tipping point.
The further self-service concepts go in business, the better the results can be. After all, having just a few employees perform their own analytics relieves a little pressure from IT departments. Having them all doing so is a natural progression, one that can transform a company. Enterprise Apps Today explained that one way to make this change possible is to ramp up the amount of visual dashboards on offer. Moving BI beyond the subject matter experts is easier when the tools are easy to use and read, providing a glimpse of trends and patterns that is comprehensible by any properly prepared user.
Time to shift
The idea that users not employing trends such as self-service are behind the curve may be worrying for those individuals. Thankfully, there are a few simple products that can resolve the situation and deliver many advanced capabilities at once. These are the tools such as Necto 14, which has been developed to both include custom views for employees in different departments and present those dashboards on a variety of screen types to ensure there is as little delay as possible between discovering a question in need of answering and getting a data-informed insight that will help resolve it.
Business intelligence software is not just a tool that hurries companies toward one goal. It is a flexible type of solution that conveys a huge advantage via the ability to make every decision better. This means elements as varied as marketing, human resources and customer care are all fair game for this improvement. Organizations should take note of developments in this field no matter what their direct purview may be, because as long as there is a major choice just ahead, there is probably a BI algorithm that can help leaders get to the bottom of it. After admitting this importance, potential users should ask whether there is a current BI product that fits their needs.
The next steps are being taken
Datamation, commenting on recent research into BI, explained that this is a time when products need to take on new forms to appeal to the aforementioned potential adopters. Some of the media buzz that once surrounded BI algorithms has been taken by big data solutions, including those that don't fit the conventional definition of BI. However, that doesn't mean the process of BI is somehow outdated or no longer important. The source specified it will always have a role and described some of its evolutionary steps.
The news provider explained that there is a revolution in usability on the horizon. Instead of being more esoteric and complicated, BI dashboards will find their stride by giving good data access to all types of employees. This is an innovative concept that could shorten the time between asking a question and putting the answer into action. Datamation also suggested that mobility is a big breakthrough that's on the way. The news provider explained that while server-sized power is still needed to crunch BI numbers, portable devices can be used to show the results of calculations and give workers a flexible access point to BI results.
The next wave is already here
Of course, leaders reading Datamation's predictions should be aware that developers are already addressing the futuristic ideals named therein. Necto 14, for instance, has been developed to allow mobile BI use and supports customized dashboards that suit the many different types of users who will be busying themselves retrieving data. This solution is designed to make self-service BI a reality instead of a far-off goal, with each member of the team getting his or her own snapshot of the relevant facts. This type of access allows companies to reach their targeted agility levels now, rather than waiting for the future.
Figuring out what exactly business intelligence means today can be a challenge. It's no longer the staid group of solutions that could only yield insights from a small amount of structured data sources, but exactly what it has become is a bit unclear. Fortunately, it still has plenty to offer, and leaders who determine the ways in which analytics could help them may be primed to take their companies beyond less data-driven rivals in the months and years ahead. The addition of features such as mobility, self-service and big data access to the fold has given new life to the science of BI.
The current role
A recent Business 2 Community overview by consultant Denise Drummond-Dunn delved into the many different elements of running analytics within a modern company. She explained, for instance, that BI functions best when the questions it is assigned to solve are of a certain level of quality. This can be achieved by setting experts to the task, perhaps including market researchers. Drummond-Dunn posited that since researchers are adept at making predictions based on information gathered from a vast variety of employee input, they are poised to participate in the new style of BI, less one-dimensional and more capable of delivering actionable insights.
Drummond-Dunn also stated that dashboards are a key element of the new style of BI. This way of presenting data is more instantly actionable than old-fashioned reports that contained facts but were less visually compelling. Leaders who look at data don't want to spend a long time pondering the numbers. They want to use that content to take action and choose what's next for the company. That means learning the gist of the content as quickly as they can, and that in turn means dashboards. The author posited that next, firms must extend this level of access to more employees.
The future calls for software
Dealing with the demands of next-generation BI means having the right software suites in place, just as much as it requires vast reserves of content and a well-trained workforce. Fortunately, software developers are working with these requirements in mind. Programs such as Necto 14 contain features that may have seemed hopelessly futuristic as recently as a few years ago. Whether leaders are most interested in extending insights to a wide variety of employees, dialing up visual accompaniment for their figures or making this all available on the go, this type of solution can deliver the functionality and keep the BI process evolving over time.
Building a business intelligence program means selecting appropriate technology and setting it up in a way that benefits the company specifically. This is a mixture of impartially examining features that are universally important then taking a critical eye to their place in a particular field, region and scale bracket. Some leaders may be excited about mobile, others may be more interested in enabling dashboards. The common thread is the presence of these advanced features, signifying BI's march to maturity. The present and future of BI have solutions to problems that would have been considered insurmountable as recently as a few years ago.
The desire for visual stimulus
A recent industry overview by Enterprise Apps Today contributor Wayne Kernochan explained the directions the BI market will take in the years ahead. Kernochan began by admitting that there is never any way to know for sure which way a technology will develop, but he still deigned to point out a few worthwhile avenues to pursue. Foremost among them was visualization, with dynamic graphics poised to change as the information within them shifts. Visual information is highly different from a stream of numbers, leading users to conclusions more quickly and unifying teams that don't have direct experience with data.
Kernochan stated that two current trends pointing to this dynamic and visual future are ad-hoc analytics and standard visualizations. With these efforts in place, companies can learn about their operations at the moment. Kernochan suggested the future course of the industry will involve allowing more long-term examination of information, enabling users to grasp the big picture and become experts in their own organization's performance. Visualizations are great for this type of analysis because they can compare and contrast different traits at once and yield better answers to common problems. Kernochan gave the example of tracking both spending and customer presence on the same graph.
Begin your modern analytics journey
The first step toward future BI is selecting strong technology in the here and now. This may include solutions such as Necto 14, which sports custom visual representations for different roles, enabling individuals from throughout the corporate structure to learn important facts about their unique situations at a glance. The power of visual language is in its ability to turn a mundane series of numbers into a piece of input that clicks at once with professionals and tells them what they should be doing next. Reacting well to visual stimuli is a natural trait, one that Necto harnesses specifically.
There are many ways to analyze and deal with information that will improve organizations' strategic approaches, and modern business intelligence programs are far better than their predecessors when it comes to offering these diverse views. Whereas in the past, a solution would have access to a limited pool of information and deliver relatively straightforward reports on that content, there is more customization to be had today. No matter a firm's industry or circumstances, chances are it can find a wide range of resources to digest and a resonant format for the results. This is a strong incentive for leaders to keep up with BI releases.
Dawn of the dashboard
Instead of receiving a complex parcel of results that can only be digested by an expert, today's BI users can access visually appealing dashboards. This, according to Enterprise Apps Today contributor Wayne Kernochan, is an indication of the progress that has been made behind the scenes. Developers haven't stopped in their quest to increase the quality of BI software, and the results can lead to improved decision-making. Kernochan noted that one function of these graphical representations is granting C-level executives a bird's-eye view of the company at work, allowing them to act immediately on new input.
The presence of helpful data visualizations has transformed the speed at which companies rethink their approaches to strategy. Kernochan explained that the time between high-level decisions on these matters is shortening. Now, instead of setting a direction far in advance and hoping it works out, leaders have the ability to know whether they've made the right call and adjust. The benefits of altering immediate approaches based on recent input are obvious. No longer beholden to one single direction over a calendar year, C-level leaders can follow the contours of their markets and become more efficient than their competitors.
Reliable software makes a difference
Expounding upon the benefits of great BI programs is a fine undertaking, but it's worth mentioning that companies won't get these results unless they choose the right brand of application. This is where solutions such as Necto come in. This program has the added benefit of wide-ranging use cases. Not only is it a great reference for the C-suite, its visualizations can be modified to show statistics relevant to other employees as well, clearing a path to self-service BI throughout the company. From the marketing department to the IT experts, there are numerous individuals within every business who could become more efficient with data.
For years, organizations have been gaining rather straightforward insights from business intelligence software. These responses have always been helpful, allowing companies to chart more accurate courses than without the technology. However, in recent years, this breed of software has gradually transformed. Tools have become better, both more powerful and responsive. Instead of making BI into an experts-only tech area, many of these breakthroughs have been designed to improve its appeal to employees outside of the traditional IT section. These moves toward accessibility have unlocked self-service BI use cases and empowered companies at large. After all, the more employees who have their own dashboards, the quicker they can go from raw data to useful insight.
The visual angle
Baseline contributors Nick Millman and John Miller recently explored what happens to business intelligence systems when tools go beyond standard results to offer rich visual accompaniment. This does not mean merely plotting out bar graphs – that capability has existed for years and today's BI developers have become more advanced. Namely, they are interested in tools that can present exactly the information that users need to see at the moment. This will vary by role and circumstances. Millman and Miller explained that there are already examples of these projects in use in enterprise settings.
The authors described speed of insights as one potential advantage of visual information delivery. They posited that when companies design a new operation, they want to know how the project is doing quickly. With a well-designed visualization to put the numbers into a legible form, they can have this insight in a hurry and make the call to continue or cancel the new plan. Responsiveness is at a premium in the current office environment. As more organizations take on advanced analytics and examine their data in close to real-time, reactions will have to become ever faster. Visualization could be one way to ensure organizations accomplish this feat of self-improvement.
One of the main points to make when developing advanced BI is ensuring that the solution is not uniform. Different employees will have unique needs, and that means organizations should find tools that present an optimized view for the user. This is where solutions such as Necto 14 come in. This suite, which can be accessed across a range of common IT devices, is meant to suit any type of potential user. From the CEO to the marketing section to highly-technical power users, they will all find dashboards that present relevant data.