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BI evolving to be more personal, social and mobile

The rise of mobile workers coupled with the emergence of technologies like cloud and in-memory is changing the way BI is consumed and delivered

With data growing exponentially, there is greater pressure on organizations to analyze the data and extract meaningful information, instead of just storing it. This challenge of analyzing huge amount of data, fashionably known as Big Data, is forcing enterprises to look at new ways of accessing or deploying BI. Another growing trend is the rapid consumerization of IT, where people not only want to access their information on the mobile phone of their choice, but also want to share this information or analysis real-time with their counterparts in a social way. Technology vendors have been quick to react to this demand, and accordingly, the market has witnessed the rapid advancement of Sa as offerings, mobile BI, BI appliances, and enterprise applications embedded with social capabilities. As a result, enterprises now have a huge range of new deployment options for BI.

MOBILE BI TAKES OFF

In India, specifically, as the mobile workforce continues to grow, offering BI on the mobile platform is gradually gaining traction. "Customers need a mobile strategy to quickly manage and analyze today's explosion of data - turning it into meaningful decision-ready information, and then deliver that data to end users at the point of decision, and back again. In India, we are seeing organizations move from planning to deployment of mobile BI, but at a slower adoption rate than anticipated," says Maneesh Sharma, Head­ Business Analytics and Technology, SAP India.

“Factors like reduction in 3G tariff and the arrival of high-end smartphones on operating systems like iOS, Android, etc. will drive utilization. Usage cases around field maintenance and sales operations are visible in the region. Executive dashboards seem to be another area where mobile BI requirements are emerging. The arrival of high-end smartphones on operating systems like iOS and Android will drive mobile BI utilization," says Prashant Tewari, Country Manger, Business Analytics, IBM India/South Asia. This trend is likely to grow as more information workers go mobile. This trend is corroborated by a Gartner report, which states that by 2013, more than 33 percent of BI functionality will be consumed by handheld devices, and the number of BI users will increase substantially and include a more mainstream audience. Mobile BI or BI-on-the-go will get more prominence as the availability and adoption of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices continue to explode.

Business analytics firm Mu Sigma however cautions that while mobile BI, as a technology, is already mainstream, it may take a couple of years before it fully matures. "It should be borne in mind that when we say 'mobile; the focus is primarily on tablet devices, as opposed to smartphones. The tablet form of mobile devices is ideal from the point-of-view of BI consumption, exploration and collaboration. Smartphones, however, are not quite suited to display BI frontends, and less activity is seen in this space;' asserts Deepinder Singh Dhingra, Head of Innovation & Development, Mu Sigma.

POWER OF IN-MEMORY

With the emergence of technology solutions such as SAP HANA, in­memory analytics has again become an area of focus for vendors and enterprises. The need for real-time analysis of information is providing the impetus for in-memory technologies. "The in-memory technologies are not restricted to BI and extend to the fundamental layer of database and data warehouses that are the causes of the latency in reporting. Since a majority of data storage, calculation, aggregation, etc, takes place on disk, it substantially impacts the end-user experience;' says Sharma of SAP.

With the advent of 64-bit computing and the steep decline in prices, in-memory analytics is taking off. The traditional BI systems while all-encompassing had a few drawbacks such as poor flexibility, diminished scope of analysis and relatively slow response times. "In­memory analytics has advantages such as fast queries against Big Data, less need for aggregates and real-time end-user analysis. This would breach the boundaries to uncover the next big frontier;' says Sumanth Tarigopula, Director, Best Shore Application Services, HP India.

Unanimously, speed is the foremost reason for in-memory BI to gain rapid adoption. "In-memory BI removes the biggest bottleneck of slow access of data, which has prompted mega vendors like Oracle, SAP, IBM, MicroStrategy and Microsoft to join the bandwagon. In-memory BI will make further impact to reduce time-to-render, time reduction in slice and dice of data and will be very popular by moving the analysis power in close proximity of the device used by BI user rather than on backend servers," says Ashwini Kuber, Business Leader - eBiz Practice, KPIT Cummins.

WILL BI APPLIANCES GET ACCEPTED?

With easy deployment options, appliance-based BI is also gaining popularity. Oracle, a major proponent of bundled appliances, recently made available its Big Data Appliance, which is designed to work alongside Oracle Database 11 g, its Exadata appliance and its recent Exalytics appliance for BI applications. Other popular names include SAP HANA and IBM Netezza. Appliances like IBM Netezza also offer users the choice to scale from 1 TB to 1.5 petabytes and allow users to perform rapid analysis of large data volumes. Similarly, HP has collaborated with Microsoft for the HP Business Decision Appliance.

As the BI solution is pre-tested, it takes away the pain of configuring and testing out the solution. However, there are others who believe appliance-based BI will suffer network externalities and lack of standardization in the fast developing technology era. "The use may be limited due to specific use of the appliance, disparate data sources, lack of standardization of data (c1ickstream, scanner or social networking data) coming from various system of records. Context-based BI data gathering and analysis would be another challenge for appliance-based BI. There will be low acceptance due to high cost of appliances as well;' says Kuber of KPIT Cummins.

CLOUD AS A DELIVERY PLATFORM

BI delivered on the cloud is also gaining heat. According to IT analysts, the BI tools market will see a compounded annual growth rate of 6.9 percent through 2014, and cloud will further drive the adoption and growth rate of BI because of factors like cost benefits and speed of deployment. "By deploying BI solutions on a cloud-based computing architecture, organizations can analyze their data and take informed decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner. While cloud computing offers compelling benefits in terms of high efficiency, high availability, elastic scalability and fast deployments,

customer concerns around security, compliance and quality of service need to be addressed," says Akash Sahni, Sales Director, EPM & BI Applications, Oracle India. That said, cloud-based BI is still in its infancy. "The cloud does not make a good platform for I/O intensive operations such as BI. For BI to be successful on the cloud, we need to have the ability to scale-out block computing;' cautions Sunny Neogi, Director-Marketing of Aditi Technologies.

DO IT YOURSELF BI

There is a clear shift towards self­service BI as it offers business users both power and flexibility reducing their dependence on IT. Self-service BI products allow business users to quickly respond to changes, and ask and answer their own questions, while a-voiding long turnaround times typically experienced in IT operations. "Data can be explored in different ways simply through a few clicks, rather than by requesting for updated queries or reports. The advent of user­ friendly, in-memory tools requiring very minimal development effort is making self-service 81 possible," says Dhingra of Mu Sigma.

For the last decade, 81 adoption rates in companies were about 20-25 percent, which means that on an average only about one fifth of the employees actually had access to the 81 tools and interfaces. In this context, self-service 81 is seeing an increase in adoption as companies are working to extend 81 across all employees. "Plenty of recent 81 product upgrades are purely for the sake of self-service 81 and improvements in systems administration and management. BI clients are increasingly requesting for the minimal need for IT staff/support, which is one of the top requirements in the list of factors driving interest in SaaS or cloud-based BI;' says Kuber of KPIT Cummins:

Industry experts however feel the self-service BI platform would need a complete business focus for it to be fully functional. "All the end-users need to be educated on the functionality and capability of the self-service BI platform. The technology components need to align the vision/direction set for self-service BI. The BI platform should be designed to provide a stable, scalable environment. A common well-defined process needs to be defined to support the end users of self-service BI and bind the people with the technology;' says Tarigopula of HP India.

The range of options for deploying BI has helped in extending BI even to smaller companies. BI software has historically been the domain of larger enterprises - mainly due to skill, time and cost required to implement, but today it's being used by businesses of all sizes. Salil Godika, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer of Happiest Minds Technologies says that the advent of cloud, appliance model, faster and more agile BI implementations are leading to democratization of BI. "Mid-size and small-size organizations or business units of bigger companies are making BI a cornerstone of their business strategy:'

While the overall BI market is concentrated among several large vendors, the market for self-service BI is wide open. Self-service BI is increasingly being embraced because it lowers dependence on IT and reduces IT-related support and maintenance costs by creating a self-sufficient user base. The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) recognizes self-service BI as one of the emerging trends for 2012.

THE SOCIAL SIDE OF BI

Social BI is gaining popularity as user shared information available on the Internet is booming. Enterprises are allowing secure access to business data to multiple stakeholders who need to provide their inputs to a business situation/ decision. Social BI tools allow users to edit and annotate content online, and seamlessly collaborate during data exploration and decision making. Many mainstream BI tools are adding social BI capabilities. For instance, Tibco Spot fire recently came out with a platform that allowed its users to communicate and collaborate over its enterprise social messaging platform called Tibbr (similar to Twitter but for the enterprise). Similarly, SAS has a hosted solution called 'SAS Social Media Analytics: which enables organizations to act on intelligence collected from online conversations on professional and consumer generated media sites.

Going forward, as data explodes at a faster rate, one can expect organizations to start looking at the cloud to integrate multiple data sources, and provide analytics on the fly. In line with the current trends, one can also expect businesses to embrace emerging technologies such as in-memory to perform real-time analysis of information. But the biggest and most significant trend is the emergence of self-service BI - a trend that will provide the power of analytics in the hands of information workers and push enterprise productivity to a new level.

HOW TO INCREASE AOPTION

One of the reasons why business intelligence and analytics has been slow to take off in organizations is that these solutions are not simple enough for everyone to use. Gartner says that less than 30 percent of the potential users of organizations' standard business intelligence (BI) tools use the technology today. Gartner attributes this low adoption to the fact that traditional tools and approaches to BI are often too difficult to use, slow to respond or deliver content of limited relevance.
A company in Australia saw this as an opportunity back in 2003, and is now offering a BI solution with simplified interfaces and informative dashboards, that can even run on tablets. The Australia-based Yellowfin claims that customers of traditional BI solutions such as IBM Cognos and SAP Business Objects are abandoning those solutions in favor of its own BI suite called Yellowfin 6.

According to release notes on its website, Yellowfin was founded "to tackle the problems its founders had experienced with more traditional players in this market." It saw that existing tools "were highly complex, expensive and designed for technical resources - not business people." Its founders believe that all business users should be able to use BI and analytics tools.

Speaking to Information Week Glen Rabie, CEO, Yellowfin said, "The product has been developed recently so you won't find the complexity that you find in Business Objects and Cognos. It's an end-to-end integrated application. So you install one product and it can run your entire BI infrastructure. To do the same in Cognos or Business Objects you need six different products."

Enterprises look for BI solutions that are easy to deploy, maintain, administer and use. Further, the solution should have a good query response rate and easy reporting tools. Yellowfin is offering a lightweight solution with slick user interfaces and drag-and-drop reporting that "can be deployed within a week," whereas traditional BI solutions take months to deploy.

Enterprises also stress that information captured from various sources should be relevant and well integrated. ~I solutions with such features will see faster adoption among all enterprise users. And Gartner even goes so far as to predict the consumerization of BI technology. "The fact of the matter is that BI is not pervasive and adoption is not in line with the investment made by most firms.

Almost every organization could improve, if its stakeholders had easier access to well-integrated information, and if they analyzed that information to manage performance and make decisions," said James Richardson, Research Director at Gartner. "The consumerization of BI technology offers a means for it to break out and reach many more users, by offering faster, more user-friendly and more relevant BI." Yellowfin claims that with the latest release of its BI solution (Yellowfin 6) even non-technical business users have the ability to perform sophisticated data analysis and report building functions independently.

  • A new native application for the iPad that delivers a consumer oriented mobile reporting and analytics experience.
  • An upgraded User Interface (OI) for improved navigation. analysis and independent report building.
  • Improved content syndication capabilities.

Source: InformationWeek