Category Archives: Thought Leadership

Small businesses taking big data by storm

New technologies that have lowered costs while raising software capabilities have levelled the playing field for SMBs, now capable of harnessing big data in more meaningful ways. According to The Washington Post, as big data drives changes in the business landscape, small businesses will increasingly turn to business intelligence (BI) tools to make sense of large information pools that previously were of little use to them, costing more than the benefits they presented.

The news source recommends that businesses new to data analysis focus on the design of their operations, taking the necessary time to ensure that the data purchased is of use and that proper data discovery solutions are put in place at the onset of any big data venture. With eDiscovery, businesses and researchers can gain access to large public cloud databases and use them to perform important studies that can benefit companies as well as scientists.

IT professionals are now developing software capable of performing real-time business analytics, a significant trend shift for businesses looking to advance their marketing and data discovery activities. These programs may offer companies the ability to keep constant track of social enterprise and changing consumer trends, blending real-world events with the hard data behind them to make for better marketing and sales strategies.

How big data helps small businesses
NPR defines big data as an aggregation of information that would be too difficult to manage without business intelligence analytics tools. The source notes that big data may always seem unlimited to those who use it, with big data expanding at a rate that's naturally far greater than that of the human race. However, with the advent of automated analytics systems that can perform much of the review currently done by people, it's possible that big data will grow both more bearable and see more practical use.

Where big data was once relegated to big businesses with the information capacity and deep wallets necessary for analytics, improvements in data analysis and significant cuts to storage costs have led small businesses to become some of the most innovative entities of our time, the Washington post writes.

The New York Times claims that new data analytics software helps small businesses keep in touch with the changing trends among their clients. Giving the example of an artisanal wine cellar, the news source explains that online data collection from social enterprise has significantly improved retailers' marketing tactics, offering insight into real-time changes in consumer trends. 

Business intelligence tackles spiking big data

Business intelligence (BI) initiatives are becoming more complex to account for larger data loads. According to new research from IDC, big data is soon to grow as the proliferation of devices like tablets and smartphones leads to more rapid data migration and creation.

Big data lacks review
IDC's report found that of all the data existing in the digital universe, less than one percent has been analyzed and put to use. By 2020, the firm expects the size of global digitized information to grow to 40 zettabytes, over 50-fold its size at the beginning of 2010. According to researchers, that's more data bytes than there are grains of sand on the planet.

BI software enabled IDC to capture data migration far more effectively than it would have otherwise, the report adds, and has helped the firm determine that of more than 13,000 exabytes existing today, 33 percent has significant big data value if tagged and analyzed.

The number of servers is expected to explode as well, growing tenfold by 2020, as information managed by enterprise data centers expands by a factor of 14. Jeremy Burton, Executive Vice President of EMC, points out that the study underscores an opportunity for businesses to identify potential benefits of BI and recognize the importance of data security and IT skills.

"As the volume and complexity of data barraging businesses from all angles increases, IT organizations have a choice," Burton said. "They can either succumb to information-overload paralysis, or they can take steps to harness the tremendous potential teeming within all of those data streams."

Cloud expansion to drive BI
Cloud computing improves data discovery by giving businesses and research centers access to large public databases and offering data analysis tools to make use of them. According to research from Infratel, most of the world's top web hosts will be offering additional internal blueprint services to help clients create more effective operational transparency and achieve better collaboration between departments.

The tech firm adds that automation of many tech services will lead to downtime for workers in almost every industry, enabling more work to get done and, likewise, more data to make its way to public and private databases. IT professionals will likely develop automated advanced analytics software that can extract and review relevant big data to save employees from going over documents that are of little use to their companies' operations.

Business intelligence predictions for 2013

Hadoop, an open source infrastructure allowing applications to harness big data from various sources at once, has had it tough recently. In the words of Boris Evelson of Forrester Research, the technology is "immature at best," but that won't stop it from becoming a major player in 2013, as companies invest in custom coding that addresses Hadoop's current shortcomings. The tool is one among many technologies set to change business intelligence (BI), which will likely offer an explosion of mobile features driven by mobility trends and evolving mobile device management (MDM) strategies.

End users may demand more BI control in 2013 as data discovery becomes a self-service feature of BI tools. Semantic layers and search capabilities may also grow critical to companies as BI vendors release more functional products that allow users to create their own applications.

Mobile integration will alter landscape
Beyond just being useful, mobile BI applications may become vital for businesses, as these apps are more readily developed for mobile devices. Cloud-based applications will also increase in number while provider-specific software decrease, driving a more collaborative landscape for app development and deployment.

According to Forrester, 24 percent of enterprises already or will soon use mobile BI applications, with 37 percent reporting they are considering these solutions for near-term implementations.

As the IT industry shifts to favor the mobile user, decision-making is becoming as simple as a click or a thumb swipe. Mobile devices integrate so many different tools – GPS, business analytics and data management among them – that it's hard to imagine business intelligence failing to evolve within the next few years.

Cloud solutions drive expansion
Gartner predicts that the cloud will see sharp growth through 2016, broadening to offer new solutions for big data management as well as data visualization. SC Magazine notes that, as cyberattacks increase, companies operating on cloud hosting will begin to funnel funds into security measures, thus sparking an expansion of cloud-based solutions. As these services grow, they will no doubt include tools for advanced analytics that help businesses to improve their data management and discovery capacities.

Best BI practices include focus on value

When adding business intelligence (BI) to a company's offerings, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of exactly what the systems are there to accomplish. TechTarget's Wayne Eckerson, however, recently spoke to several leaders in the analytics field who confirmed that a renewed focus on business value and the long-term goals of a project are conducive to getting results from BI. It is not enough to collect and mine data, so companies should decide why they are doing it and what they hope to accomplish.

Key goals in mind
Business processes are useless unless they actually do something for a company that contributes to the overall mission. BI can be very helpful in several regards, but users should stay aware of what they want so they do not let their projects become wasteful. Ken Rudin, Facebook's analytics leader, told Eckerson that BI users should measure the worth of their results by whether anything actually changes or shifts as a result of their reports. The new insights given by good analytics can encourage promising directions for firms. If they do not, that might be a sign that a change is needed.

Rudin suggested treating analysis experts like salespeople who are paid on commission. When a BI program turns up a new way to do something that has a material impact on the bottom line, that is the goal. The simple presence of many facts and figures does not indicate that users have discovered anything of value.

Consultant David Leonard told Eckerson that a great BI user is not, strictly speaking, an IT employee. He suggested that to be taken seriously, these workers should slip into hybrid roles, using technology in service of the bottom line. This means explaining things in terms sales executives can understand and focusing on the things BI can accomplish, rather than the stats-oriented details of how that will happen.

Becoming common
The decision about what to do with business intelligence and analytics is being made at companies around the world. Recent overviews demonstrate large and growing enthusiasm for the technology. According to Information Management, analytics has been one of the defining tech trends of 2012. Along with social, mobility and the cloud, it has defined the CIO procurement agenda. The source noted that users are now ready to push for simple, resonant analytics information – results that are easy to parse quickly.

Business intelligence integrates mobility

Mobile technology and business intelligence (BI) seem to be a good match. Companies are at their best when they have fast access to their vital facts and figures, and mobile devices provide handy outlets for that information. Mobile BI acts as the enabler, allowing executives and business section workers to have a constant stream of data at their fingertips. Developers are growing more adept at designing dashboards for mobile devices and the handsets themselves are becoming more powerful.

Mobility as default
At the moment, mobility is a feature of some BI systems, albeit an important one. According to Information Management, it could become the accepted way to access analytics. This fits the desires of actual BI users. The source stated that these professionals want their data quickly and through a simple interface. A long wait for a complex report can no longer stack up next to a resonant dashboard with the latest figures, something that mobility can offer on the go.

The news provider explained that many industry-watchers, including analyst Howard Dresner, expect that mobility, the cloud and collaborative features will eventually form the backbone of normal BI systems. Now, they are value-added propositions offered by leading providers. Businesses that take advantage of them now may be well placed to master the field once they have remade the BI market in their image.

Analytics processes bring together many of the systems and informational flows within companies' systems. According to the news provider, users are now eager to get those BI insights where the data resides rather than taking extraordinary steps to analyze it. The faster a product is, the better. The source predicted analytics apps are set to evolve, becoming less general as different types of users in various fields get their own tailor-made solutions.

High priority
The recent CIO Magazine Tech Priorities Survey found that many business leaders are eager to get their hands on improved BI. The source categorized it as an "edge" technology, rather than one of the main processes keeping things running. The next few years, however, could be very good to systems on the edges of IT, as the study found CIOs favoring BI, mobility and the cloud. These are powerful technologies that go well together, meaning the future could be driven by some combination of them.

Business intelligence not to be underestimated at telecoms

There are several mistakes telecom companies can make with business intelligence. One of the most glaring ones could happen before they ever launch their systems: Some leaders will not take the idea of analytics seriously. Industry insider Scott Tunbridge recently spoke to BizTech2, explaining that firms with a serious business intelligence focus have largely performed better than those who have brushed the systems off. With usage statistics rolling in, the effectiveness of business intelligence has become obvious.

Adopt or lag
Telecommunications is a field with obvious BI usage cases. The sheer amount of information means there is plenty of raw material. Tunbridge told the source that business leaders who have embraced data have gone a long way toward achieving their goals of improved performance. He noted that businesses want to make their decisions quickly and manage to pull ahead of their rivals even as their budgets shrink. They are turning to BI to achieve these ends.

There is one simple purpose to good BI results – they help leaders make decisions. According to Tunbridge, the results of poor choices made without the benefit of data have been catastrophic. He pointed to the recent financial crises in the United States and Europe as problems that could have been foreseen through information analysis. When companies are using data to its fullest extent, they can seem almost precognitive, acting on things before they manifest as serious issues and understanding the market in ways that are hardly obvious at first glance.

While there are usage challenges present in the current market, including the expansion of input volumes to big data levels, Tunbridge offered hope for telecoms. He suggested that companies should begin by surveying their own users to find out what they most need to become better in their roles, then find solutions tailored to those needs.

Cooperation and success
Analytics programs may have side effects for companies, potentially very beneficial ones. TechTarget recently explained that IT and business departments, very different in construction and purpose, need to come together. One of the things that can draw out this close teamwork is an analytics development process. The source noted that developing business intelligence use cases requires IT to get more in touch with the company's overall goals and communicate better.

Expert sees small companies diving into mobile BI

Companies interested in various advanced business intelligence permutations may wonder if their size or industry discounts them. As the solutions available and the types of firms considering them are varied, the answers are similarly multifarious. In the case of mobile BI, however, the field is wide open. The simple premise of these systems – that firms will be better equipped to manage data if they have constant access to it – has resonated with many different companies, including small businesses, according to TechTarget.

Aggression a plus
The news source reported that Howard Dresner, an industry analyst and author of a report on the market adoption of mobile BI, saw interest in the solutions lowest among mid-sized businesses, with small and large companies both on board. He stated that this is normal for new tech deployment, with the littlest firms scrapping for any market share they can gain and the largest able to afford trial forays into the latest developments.

Dresner explained that small companies are agile and believe their cultures support the addition of mobile BI, allowing them to take the lead on the issue, well ahead of their mid-sized brethren. In fact, the question of readiness got positive responses from many different corners of the enterprise world. TechTarget noted that Dresner's study found 70 percent of companies consider themselves "somewhat or completely" ready for mobile BI on a cultural level.

Mobile BI is still on the rise, Dresner told the source, as the importance of the technology to the companies he polled rose as the year went on. He noted that some smaller segments of the market found mobile BI a more important app than email access programs, a perennial number one.

Other priority programs
Mobility is not the only advanced feature turning heads among BI users, but many are also interested in self-service BI. This is a close cousin of mobile, as both tend to empower workers outside the usual IT sphere to use analytics. The focus in both cases is also on resonant and easy to understand interfaces. Industry expert Wayne Kernochan, contributing to Enterprise Apps Today, recently noted that companies should focus on agility and making their data move faster before deploying self-service applications. This is as opposed to adding self-service and hoping it will enforce agility through its mere presence. He stated that self-service should be part of a strategy, not something that stands alone.

Business intelligence can unite IT with other teams

Information technology sections within companies will soon have to come together with the business units and other vital functions. Advanced digital systems have become too indispensable to companies' core missions, meaning the clearest way forward is through a meaningful business-technology alliance. Businesses could spend the next few months or years finding ways to bring its various parts into synchronization. According to a recent TechTarget report, business intelligence (BI) can help.

Different sections come together
According to the source, IT and business departments are rarely on the same page these days. While business sections are often beholden to heavily codified rules and regulations, developed over the course of many years, IT departments are looser. IT has a shorter history than the other parts of a functional company and is devoted to making the others function better. While business initiatives are carefully planned and often deliver clear return on investment, things are less certain in IT.

The development of BI programs differs from nearly all other IT initiatives and, according to TechTarget, these developments could finally bring the very different business and tech departments into alignment. The source noted that long-term BI deployments need a value case related to the company's long-term fiscal goals rather than internal metrics. Working with numbers and goals generated by the business operatives and technology maintained by IT, BI is a clear bridge into which each party places something important.

IT, according to TechTarget, can now draw closer to what business end users want through the deployment of initiatives like self-service BI. These programs represent close work between business users and the IT support staff providing assistance. Meeting in the middle could inspire workers of different stripes to see their role from a new perspective and increase their teamwork.

Focusing on data
IT leaders may ask, in the case of self-service BI, what exactly their workers would be doing once the project launched. Forrester researcher Boris Evelson gave an answer in a recent report. He noted that modern companies employing systems like self-service BI are more likely than ever to need their data to be organized, sorted and managed carefully. He noted that such companies should treat their data as a valuable resource, rather than something that is simply there.

Business intelligence success demands attentiveness

There are many different ways to approach business intelligence (BI), as these programs can solve a number of different problems within companies' structures. According to SQL Server Pro contributor Brian Knight, however, there are hazards lurking within attempts to make BI work. While some procedures and approaches can improve the performance of BI and make sure it delivers return on investment, there are also common mistakes that can impose severe limitations.

Avoiding the pitfalls
Knight noted that some companies think about BI on a grand scale. Because the project will be huge when it is done and take many months to complete, users occasionally set aside three months or so for planning but find the project canceled early due to a lack of visible return on investment. Knight suggested that firms instead construct their new programs in sections, developing complete and ready-to-use technology every few weeks.

BI has the power to show quick value, convincing leaders of its value and ensuring continued sponsorship and effort. Knight acknowledged that fact, stating that BI is actually the best way to help companies recoup their investment. He noted that a good program unites the company behind one set of figures, making sure that efforts in different branches of the firm are working in concert. Increasing customer outreach to both new clients and existing subscribers, he stated, is a primary benefit of BI.

Many BI projects fail, despite their initial promise. Knight chalked that futility up to certain programs that display a lack of immediate results, a dearth of sponsorship at the highest corporate levels and data quality discord. If firms can turn these elements around, they are well-positioned to unlock intrinsic BI value. He compared development to the gold rush. Prospectors knew there was actually gold to be found, but only some ever struck it rich. In the BI world, those will be the companies that display best practices.

Internal competency pros
Some BI sections involve "competency centers," teams designed to help various users throughout the company achieve their analytics goals. According to TechTarget, this approach may not be right for some companies. Consultant Jill Dyche told the news provider that some firms begin to develop the concept of a competency center too early, when BI is just getting off the ground at that particular organization. Instead of acting as the first expression of analytics intent, the teams should consist of seasoned experts sharing tips.

Emerging trends keep business intelligence strong

The strength of the business intelligence and analytics software market lies in its ability to offer insight, no matter the field. The systems simply need strong data and business question to answer, meaning executives can create use cases that go well with their overall objectives. According to a recent InformationWeek survey, 2013 could be a very big year indeed for business intelligence's continued expansion, with companies explaining ambitious implementations of business intelligence while incorporating exciting new options.

Big plans
According to the survey, there are numerous different areas within companies that can be enhanced through the use of business intelligence. In fact, even functions that have relatively little adoption at present are slated to draw attention in the near future. The source noted that financial departments are the most eager business intelligence users, with 67 percent of respondents already involved and only 9 percent not planning to invest in that type of solution at all. Looking into the future is also a prime use for analytics tools. According to the report, only 33 percent of companies have predictive programs now, but that amount is set to spike to 80 percent in the months ahead.

Companies are so interested in adding analytics capabilities that they are hiring employees specifically to make their business intelligence departments stronger. According to the source, there are more companies ready to boost analytics user numbers by 30 percent in the next two years than those willing to keep things at status quo and increase the department by 1 percent or less.

Enthusiasm for powerful new analytics tools remained fairly steady between this year and last, according to InformationWeek. The source noted that, in marks out of five, excitement for collaborative business intelligence solutions stayed firm at 3.4, as did eagerness to begin mining big data.

Year of analytics
InformationWeek is not the only organization to predict strong enthusiasm for business intelligence in the months ahead. A recent Nucleus Research report indicated that 2013 could be the year that companies finally realize that the value cases for business intelligence usage are too blatant and appealing to ignore. Firms are expected to switch over en masse, adding to the user base and pushing the technology forward. When tech trends gain a certain amount of momentum, they eventually become inevitable, with non-users being left behind. It could be business intelligence's time.