BI is dead; long live BI

Enterprise business intelligence is thriving. Here are five trends that will shape its future.

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The perception of legacy enterprise business intelligence (BI) platforms comes with some legitimate stigma and baggage. It's technology first, not business-led; the graphical user interface (GUI)-based user experience (UX) doesn't address ease of use for all business decision-makers; there are too many underutilized reports and dashboards floating around in the enterprise; and signals produced by BI applications aren't actionable, resulting in a disconnect between BI and tangible business outcomes. So, is enterprise BI dead? Is the end near? 

No. If I got $1,000 every time I heard the phrase "BI is dead" over my 30-plus-year career, I'd be a very rich man. I recall claims that advanced data visualization and interactive data querying will replace static reports and dashboards. They didn't. Rather, all enterprise BI platforms built up that capability. I also vividly remember that these trends started as long as 10-plus years ago and still persist: Multiple vendors' claims that analytics based on machine learning (ML) will push BI platforms formerly limited to descriptive and diagnostic analytics to the edge of extinction. "Should we replace our BI with AI?" was, and sometimes still is, a typical "BI is dead"-type client inquiry. That didn't happen either. All leading BI vendors built or acquired augmented (infused with ML for predictive analytics and with conversational UI) BI functionality. 

Today, Forrester uses the terms augmented BI and analytics interchangeably, and we're researching the intersection between augmented BI and automated machine learning (AutoML). When we introduced the systems of insight (SOI) concept back in 2018, we concluded that BI is still a key component of SOI, which supports overall insights-driven business (IDB) capabilities alongside data management and data governance. 

So, enterprise BI is not dead. It's alive and thriving — even more so now that the workforce relies on more digital data for decisions. But there are changes ahead. What's in store for a post-dashboard world of BI? We believe five trends will shape the post-dashboard future. BI will become more: 

  1. Pervasive and ambient. Stitched together by BI fabric, insights from BI will always be there right at your fingertips (or just a question away), seamlessly embedded in all enterprise applications — such as in enterprise resource planning, CRM, and productivity. 
  2. Actionable and effective. In the future, BI will enable business users to turn insights into actions without having to leave whatever business or productivity application they have open — a natural extension of embedded BI, plus an emerging use of BI platforms as general purpose (not just analytical, read-only) low-code enterprise applications development. 
  3. Natural-language-based and conversational. BI will achieve greater adoption in the enterprise. More business users (all end users, not just data or business analysts) will be able to benefit from BI via natural conversational interaction/UX. 
  4. Valuable. BI will provide new and deeper insights. BI augmented with ML and NoSQL technologies like search and graph analytics will empower most BI users to get insights where they previously had to rely on data and data science professionals. 
  5. Anticipatory. BI will answer questions you didn't even think you needed to ask via insights uncovered by ML being "pushed" to you. This'll finally start addressing the "I don't know what I don't know" dilemma that traditional BI applications couldn't address. 

We'll be researching this post-dashboard future of BI and the current and emerging technologies that will turn these five trends into reality, so please stay tuned. And don't forget to sign up and attend our upcoming Data Strategy & Insights 2020 virtual event coming up on October 13–15.  

This post was written by VP, Principal Analyst Boris Evelson, and it originally appeared here