Future of Business Intelligence: evolve or extinct?

Business intelligence (BI) sits at the center of many organizations’ efforts to enable data-driven decisions and actions through their enterprises. But BI is changing, both for organizations just getting started with BI and those that have invested in developing an enterprise standard.

BI evolve or exinct

BI solutions have become an important tool in enabling companies to make smart, data-driven decisions. But what’s next for BI? More advanced techniques and technologies come to light that evolve and redefine what we thought and what we knew about the business intelligence space and business intelligence’s future. For instance, developments like the cloud, data visualization tools, and predictive analytics are changing the way businesses evaluate and make decisions from their data. So what is the future of BI; evolve or expire? What are the key trends shaping its future and how will the technology evolve and continue to drive value in rapidly changing big data world?

Today the reliance on data is growing exponentially; virtually any application of data requires analytics or BI to extract meaning and subsequent action. In addition to developments in automation, Data Discovery tools, Cloud computing and Big Data – is readily used to simplify the process of leveraging BI for the inexperienced public. Traditional BI utilized a centralized approach in which end users routinely waited for IT to obtain reports of historic data. But now IT is no longer at the center of numerous BI requests and instead functions as a facilitator for BI on various desktop, mobile, and cloud applications that are much more accessible and extremely swift for business, increasing BI’s overall usage and business value.

Big Data, cloud services, predictive analytics, and data science are continually innovating spaces that each feed into BI, constantly changing the role it plays within enterprises and a growing number of small to midsize businesses (SMBs). Past year saw a big shift toward businesses leveraging self-service analytics data. Self-service data preparation will become an increasingly important component of a pervasive modern BI platform deployment, be it through embedded tools or geared toward improving data governance.

Business Intelligence trends for 2016

  1. Evolution of self-service BI: There will be self-service information for the masses delivered not through tools but through purpose-built interfaces and apps.
  2. BI will become personalized: Reports are developed once and used by many today simply because too many technical resources are required to personalize them
  3. Simplifying the user experience: Coming years will see significant progress towards making all data more accessible to the business people who need it
  4. Cloud factor: The Cloud is projected to be the de facto source for Big Data analytics in the coming years, while its low cost and extreme scalability is ideal for accessing BI from mobile devices
  5. More advanced customizable visualizations: There will be an emphasis on tools that will create more powerful graphics and, in particular, more advanced cloud authoring capabilities

Business is war! Like in any war, survival depends on being able to act quickly in a constantly changing environment. In the next two years, business-intelligence capabilities will become more democratized, with a far greater number of end users across the enterprise using the tools to get better visibility into the performance of their segment of the business. The BI market is in the final stages of a multiyear shift from IT-led, system-of-record reporting to pervasive, business-led, self-service analytics. The cloud, big data, predictive analytics, and data visualization – add to existing BI capabilities. Companies aren’t replacing their data warehouses; they are adding new tools to gain deeper and faster insights. Combination of analytics tools, data, and algorithms available through analytics marketplaces will play a core part in improving deployment time and data insights while compensating for the scarcity of data science skills. This means new initiatives, new skills, and changes to existing business and technical processes are on the horizon.

BI is evolving, and what has always been true will remain so: businesses that embrace the newer techniques will see competitive advantages.

Stylus Systems offer comprehensive BI solutions making it an effective choice for better business results and success. If you like to start mapping your evolutionary path, Contact Us, we will help you choose the right path for you.


Predictive Analytics-the future of Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence is witnessing a major change in 2014, as BI and analytics become less an IT report-based capability and more of an information decision tool for end users. Because of the increasing business essentials, almost a third of the packaged BI applications have moved from traditional analytics to predictive analytics. Through predictive analytics more and more companies are expecting to leverage their existing data resources with a view to better explore trends, improving product quality and increasing their competitive gain.

Past and present insight and trend information are not enough to be competitive in business. Business organizations need to know more about the future, and in particular, about future trends, patterns, and customer behavior in order to comprehend the market better. To meet this demand, many BI vendors developed predictive analytics to forecast future trends in customer behavior, buying patterns etc.

Now what is predictive analytics and how it differs from traditional analytics? Predictive analytics is used to determine the probable future outcome of an event or the probability of a situation happening. It is the branch of data mining concerned with the prediction of future probabilities and trends. It is used to automatically analyze large amounts of data with different variables; which includes clustering, decision trees, market basket analysis, regression modeling, neural nets, genetic algorithms, text mining, hypothesis testing, decision analytics, and more. Predictive analytics provides future-looking insights on the business predicting what is likely to happen and why it is likely to happen, whereas traditional analytics analyze only historical data and can gain insight on what happened in the past and what went wrong.

Predictive analytics takes business intelligence to the next level. It lets enterprises to go beyond the assumptions or answers generated by BI by providing more predictive answers and recommendations to many of the same questions. It employs both a microscopic and telescopic view of data, allowing enterprises to analyze the minute details of the business. The insights gained through predictive analytics help organizations understand how people behave as customers, buyers, sellers etc.

Though we say predictive analytics is the future of BI, still we need BI to know what really happened in the past, but predictive analytics is equally important as it helps to optimize your resources and make apt decisions and actions for the future.

Stylusinc specializes in tailoring Business Intelligence for small and medium sized companies right from the start. Click here to know in detail about our experience and expertise.

Top reasons why BI projects fail?

Half of the BI project’s either failed or never completed. But why this happens? What can be the major reasons behind this? Over the years companies have acquired large volumes of data and considerable efforts were made to transform this raw data to potential assets. Today, in this world of global business, transforming data into relevant information has become the top priority for efficient operation and greater productivity. But majority of business users continues to struggle to get the desired value out of their BI investment.

BI Projects

Summarization of historical data and transforming it into a real-time decision maker is not an easy task. An effective BI strategy requires a practical approach, a merger of enterprise resources to deliver a predictable, consistent and timely source of information to deliver on the promise of BI. If implemented properly BI offers so many advantages to companies. But if you leap into all the challenges and try to resolve it, you will ultimately fail. Here in this post, let us take a look of major probable reasons of BI projects failure.

  1. Failure to recognize BI projects and cross-organizational business initiatives. Lack of appropriate framework, methodology, processes, system and technology to deliver value that aligns with the business objectives
  2. Poor data quality. Dirty data is a major factor that can ruin a BI project. Even the best data warehouse will provide undesirable results if the information quality is poor.
  3. Too much reliance on different tools and methods. There is neither a single technology nor a technique that will resolve all the challenges to reach the goal of a successful BI environment.
  4. Lack of skilled resources. Lack of skilled and ready available staff, or sub-optimal staff employment
  5. Following a flexible approach. BI strategy should be continuously monitored to reflect the needs of the company
  6. Nonexistence of dedicated business representation. BI project without the proper involvement of desired stakeholders has a greater chance to fail
  7. No business analysis and data cleansing activities

Underestimating any of these may result in BI failure. If implemented properly enterprises can improve business agility, decrease operating costs and improve customer loyalty and acquisition.

At Stylus, rather treating BI project as a separate IT project, we consider it as a constantly evolving strategy, vision and architecture that continuously seek to align an organization’s operations and directions with its strategic business goals. With this approach we were able to offer comprehensive BI solutions to our clients. Talk to us to know in detail and to make sure you aren’t one among the BI project failure’s list.

Mobile BI-the next generation BI

Over the last few years, the technology leap has changed how the business work, communicate and interacts. The advent of Smartphones has mostly induced the thought of introducing mobile devices into business purpose. Further, businesses are empowering their employees to use mobile devices with enhanced information services that enable them to make better decisions despite location.  In today’s rapid-fire business world, development groups and analysts were fast to comprehend the potential of constructing  business intelligence systems obtainable on mobile devices. Within a brief span of time, Mobile BI gained a good demand within the business world due to its real-time, on-demand access of BI related data.

Mobile BI

Mobile BI is the hottest and quickly evolving branch within the software industry. A lot of  organizations are integrating this idea with the expectation to boost on certain keen performance capabilities. If BI is about making better decisions using the right data, then mobile BI is about ensuring that everybody – especially remote employees – has access to that data anytime, anywhere. It can be accomplished either by employing  a mobile browser to access the application on the web or using a native application that is designed for a specific mobile OS (such as iOS or Android).  The advanced mobile technologies facilitate  the business by delivering the precise BI content, while not compromise to the quality of the content.

Benefits of deploying Mobile BI

  • Organizations can expect a higher return on investment (ROI)
  • Improve operational potency. The provision of BI data anytime anywhere facilitate users connected with business at all times
  • Intelligent and assured deciding  by quickly accessing critical BI data
  • Employee productivity can be zoomed  by sharing information instantly anytime, with any device
  • Enhance client relations with prompt and accurate responses
  • Accelerate cost savings. Mobile BI can be downloaded freely and this makes process distribution easy and less expense for IT.

Mobile devices are getting  a standard place within the lives of common man  and increasingly in an enterprise. With the provision provided by the new mobile computing technology, business managers have a chance to re-think their business processes and work differently.

Business Analytics- driving better decisions

In this modern world making swift decisions has become essential in building a successful enterprise. Business Intelligence (BI) is now evolving to Business Analytics (BA), as it is not just reporting the past data, but giving the organization an insight to its future journey. By embracing an analytical approach, organizations can identify their lucrative clients, accelerate product innovation, enhance supply chains and pricing and identify the real factors of better financial performance.

business analytics

Analytics is basically a fact-and-data-based approach which helps the companies in understanding the business performance and come up with a decision giving emphasis on production and optimization. It is predictive as well as historical. Through analytics firms can optimize their business practice as effective as possible. Investment in business analytics would provide organizations with the right information at the right time in order to empower fact-based decisions at every level of the enterprise, to achieve key objectives and to gain maximum return from information assets. BA can effectively predict the future business scenario. By looking at the future, organizations can take proactive choices and plan their business for extreme accomplishment.

Business Analytics is getting hotter than ever as firms seek better visibility on the market scenario and increased organizational agility to compete the changing trends. In analytics, generation of insight, as well as execution of decisions based on this insight, are intertwined. The overall success of analytics depends on variety factors like organizational structure, management committee and successful strategic planning.

Key components of BA are:

• Domain Experts
• Data and Text mining
• Forecasting
• Statistical Analysis and predictive modeling
• Reporting and Analysis
• Financial Performance and Strategy
• Optimization and Visualization

Now what will your business gain through analytics? Planned solutions to unfamiliar circumstances, ability to adapt to challenges and ability to drive business-wide productivity and profitability improvements

To be more precise, the benefits of Business Analytics are:

• Improving and accelerating the decision making
• Realizing cost-efficiency
• Better alignment of resources with strategy
• Improving competitiveness
• Improved customer service
• Simplified inventory management
• Coordinating financial and operational strategy
• Increase revenue

Companies who seek to be winners and are consistently forge ahead of competitors, inform their decisions with business analytics. It is a well- known fact that business analytics is a key differentiator to competitive advantage and driving better business performance.

Stylusinc specializes in tailoring Business Intelligence for small and medium sized companies right from the start. Click here to know in detail about our experience and expertise.

Datacubes for forecasting

The last two days, I’ve been totally immersed in creating a forecasting tool for retail stores. The challenge was to develop a software that was self learning; in the sense that it would need to analyze previous years’ data, and on it’s own, understand patterns and trends. Furthermore, it would then use these patterns and trends to forecast sales projections on a daily basis for each store in the chain.

The first thing I found out was that calling it “difficult” was an understatement. Even to prototype this is Excel we spent close to two weeks of intense work using Power Pivots, VBA programming and clever workarounds. Ultimately we figured out that it was best to use datacubes to organize the base data and then populate another table with forecast data using MDX queries.

We then used a second set of cubes to render the forecasted data so that mangement could slice and dice the forecasts to prepare their business forcasts at various levels. One good thing that came out from all of this is the experience we gained in using datacubes at various levels of analysis – each cube analyzing just one level of data

Business Intelligence the old way

An  incident last week served to remind me that not all business intelligence comes from technology giants like Microsoft or Oracle, and not all business intelligence is tracked by Gartner.

As part of the desgin of a software for a client we had to architect roles and permissions for different users of the system . The organization seemed to have a number of roles, some of which were permanent and some were temporary. In addition, some of these roles were distinct (they had permissions that no other role had), whereas some others had common permissions (plus some unique ones). Since the number of roles were less than 20, we decided not to have a “Role management” functionality, where the administrator would allocate permissions to roles in a dynamic fashion.

Our finest minds went to work on this problem, and we came up with a two category solution, where one set of roles were primary roles (the permanent roles) and some roles were secondary(the temporary roles ). Moreover, in the primary role category, most of the roles were hierarchical (moving up a chain of command), so every higher role encompassed the permissions of the lower role (along with a few new ones). We also gave the facility for users to have a primary and one or more secondary roles. Naturally, we were quite pleased with what we came up with.

However after we developed the solution and deployed it, the customer quickly became quite dissatisfied with the solution. What we missed out in our design was that there were two primary roles that were quite distinct and separate from the other heriarchically arranged roles. The customer was shocked to find that while he could choose one primary and any number of secondary roles, he was unable to choose two primary roles (one heirarchical and the other distinct). It had never occured to us that in the organization, there may be people who held two primary (??) roles simultaneously.

It taught us an important lesson. Business intelligence (the old fashion way) is not just about creating fancy reports, it is also about questioning every assumption and making sure that the software architecture maps are as close to the real business as possible.

Less data, more wisdom – the new IT mantra

The recent slide on the Dow Jones that has taken the index below 10,000 for the first time in 3 months is the surest indicator yet that the recession hangover has not fully left us. No doubt the Eurozone troubles have a large part to play in this, but the larger picture is that although recovering, the world economy is still in such a fragile state that any problem anywhere can stop the recovery everywhere.

As business leaders, this puts additional pressure on us. Should I now plan and invest now to take advantage of the growth that I hope to see over the next 12 months, or should I wait just in case the whole recovery stalls and/or slows down? One thing I have found out over the last year is that while IT investment cannot be kept on hold any longer without degrading business capability, it is possible, even in this environment to look at IT as more than just maintenance, as an investment that can improve the business decision making capability.

The development of new platforms and tools in the Business intelligence space ( cloud, mobile and on premise) means that now, more than any other time in the past, it is possible to analyze and make sense of data more quickly and relatively inexpensively. This means that rather than spend on new software that will collect even more data, now may be a good time to build/buy robust analytics software that can better use the existing data locked away in your existing systems, in order to make better decisions. And it needs to do so in an easy to use manner, so that business leaders can do the job themselves and not have to rely on expensive human analysts to download data and slice and dice them on ubiquitious spreadsheets.

Businesses today can neither afford the time not the cost for this spreadsheet mania. Our own research has discovered amazing ways by which companies today can leverage low cost BI solutions to ensure that their software doesn’t just provide data, but track KPIs that are closely linked to the business health of the firm. After all, if the recession has forced our people to rise to the challenge, shouldn’t we expect the same from our existing business software applications as well?

The future of reporting

Most web applications built on Java or .Net have built in reports that allow the key stakeholders to see how the application behaves with respect to their goals and KPIs. Traditionally these reports are defined with the software requirements and are manually coded in.

But all this is about to change in ways that can cause wide impact. Over the last few years, Microsoft has been deliberately building up their Business Intelligence services into their MS SQL server software. I believe that these services will make Microsoft SQL server the database of choice for small and midsize companies. Why? Because of two main reasons:

a) With these services, Microsoft, which has traditionally been a strong contender in the SME segment, has effectively combined a transactional database and data warehouse into one server. This has significant implications with respect to both, cost of licenses, and the IT infrastructure that is required (both in terms of hardware and people). Now customers don’t have to spend on expensive BI tool licenses such as Cognos, Web focus, etc. when they come to Stylus as Stylus uses MS SQL database server for all customer’s applications and SSIS, SSAS, SSRS all come as free add on services with MS SQL enterprise edition.

b) Secondly and more importantly it allows for the creation of what we call the “intelligent business applications”. These are applications that not only have clear linkages to one or more business level KPIs, but they also allow the business users to do their own analysis and create their own reports. If customers already have existing applications built with MS SQL and require further customization, Stylus is well equipped to handle it, as it understands the advantages of MS SQL over the other BI tools available. To illustrate our expertise, please click here, to learn how healthcare BI services developed by Stylus can help improve a hospital’s operations, productivity and profitability.

But has this been a core feature of any BI solutions in the past? Yes, but the important thing to note here is that this will become (IMHO) an integral part of every software application that comes out in the near future (at the very least, that will be the case for every software we make at Stylus). BI will no longer be a separate technology with it’s own army of high priests (read Data warehousing experts) and prophets (read BI analysts) but an essential component of every software application that the business will use, be it ERP, CRM, MIS etc. In addition with minimal extra work, users will be able to quickly connect these individual KPIs (from separate applications) into Performance Management Dashboards that give a quick view of not just their performance but the Performance of the area of the business they are responsible for.

Now if that isn’t change you can believe in, I don’t know what is.