Is traditional BI enough for today’s real-time enterprise?

An avalanche of new use cases, content types and interaction models expands the scope for tomorrow's BI platforms.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor on

Commentary - There seem to be three certainties in a software person’s life: Death, taxes and the continued growth and expansion of business intelligence into new areas. I think Gartner said it best at the beginning of this year’s BI Magic Quadrant report: “In 2011, business users continued to exert significant influence over BI decisions, often choosing data discovery products in addition to/as alternatives to traditional BI tools. An avalanche of new use cases, content types and interaction models expands the scope for tomorrow's BI platforms.”

The idea of organizations standardizing on one platform to solve all BI related problems is a thing of the past. Today when I walk into customer meetings, it’s more about how we work with five-10 BI platforms vs. one. What was once traditionally led by IT (and in some cases still is) is certainly moving closer to the business. I see business intelligence becoming much more problem centric vs. technology centric. Organizations are realizing that a one size fits all model for business intelligence simply won’t work. Not all problems are the same and not all problems can be solved by the same technology architecture.

So much has changed in the last 12 years. A decade ago the fear of Y2K was real, the on-ramp to the Internet was dial up and Google had just come out of beta. Our expectation of technology just wasn’t the same. Who knew that today half of the country would own a smartphone and 66 percent of us would have a fear of being separated from our wireless connection to the world? If we live like that in our personal lives, then you better believe BYOD is real.

Organizations recognize they can’t stop this trend. It’s real and it’s happening quickly. In the BI space this is manifesting itself by shifting more power to the business; more building power and more buying power. This theory became crystal clear to me when I attended the recent Gartner BI Summit. I even blogged about in the ‘7 Wonders of BI: Straight from the Gartner Summit’: “Now that the line-of-business is sick of dumping everything into Excel and they've gotten a taste of DIY with QlikTech and Tableau, this saying reigns true: ’The more you get, the more you want.’ If the line-of-business can do data discovery themselves, why not do more BI, such as real-time, SaaS and even big data analytics themselves? So what does all this mean? The line-of-business can ’buy’ BI themselves.”

As Gartner said, there has been “an avalanche of new use cases” for BI and one big area that has been completely underserved by traditional BI is operations. The smart folks at Aberdeen recognize this as well: ”Decision makers continually need to examine their long-term strategy to ensure that their organization or department is poised for stability. However, while these decisions are by no means trivial, the greatest urgency and most variance typically occurs on a tactical level as operational managers look to keep up with an accelerating business landscape and increasingly more demanding customers. In order to bolster their experience and domain expertise with fact-based decision support, an increasing number of managers these days are seeking the aid of Business Intelligence (BI) technology and other analytical methodologies.”

This same theory is validated again and again by our customers. One of the biggest organizational pressures to make timely and relevant decisions is the “shrinking decision window”. The business needs to see and analyze “fresh” operational information to make decisions whenever and wherever they are. I presented on a recent webinar, Making Real-Time Intelligence Portable: Deliver Operational Dashboards Where Your Users Need Them, and 63 percent of attendees said they need to use or need to deliver information as it’s happening but IT still continues to struggle to deliver on this reality. Aberdeen validated this theory with a recently published report, Operational Intelligence: The Path to Best in Class Performance where they stated that“‘27% of survey respondents agree with ‘the shortening window of time to make critical decisions”. Aberdeen also reported that in one year, “the increased urgency for Actionable Information increased from 6% in 2010 to 28% in 2011,” and is expected to grow even more over the next few years.

This is all the more reason organizations need to recognize that Real-Time Operational Intelligence platforms can become an alternative solution to solving their operational challenges and supporting their BI portfolio approach. Don’t focus on force-fitting traditional business intelligence solutions to solve operational problems. Instead, determine how new technology can help you optimize decision making and collaboration and maximize business results.

John Crupi is CTO of JackBe.

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