5 Honest BI Predictions for 2014

Business Intelligence PredictionsDo you ever wonder where annual IT forecasts come from? When they’re over-the-top optimistic about, say, adoption rates, or simply out in left field relative to where the industry stands today, you have to wonder whose agenda is driving them.

As usual, a surge of BI market predictions for the coming year has flooded in. The best ones are derived from user surveys and legitimate research, but just as many are the products of vendor-driven hype that doesn’t reflect the real-world challenges or aspirations of most businesses today.

Based on what business leaders are actually asking of their BI solutions right now, I see several trends that could realistically emerge this year. They may not be as sexy as those being put forward by certain prognosticators, but they will probably resonate better with business professionals in the trenches using data to drive their companies forward.

#1: Cloud BI will Continue to Gain Traction

All evidence suggests that cloud-based BI solutions are growing in popularity and this trend looks set to continue. But don’t just take my word for it. (After all, I’m a vendor.) According to the 2013 Wisdom of Crowds® Cloud Business Intelligence Market Study, 35% of participants indicated that Cloud BI is either “critical” or “very important” in their organizations while the number of respondents citing Cloud BI as “not important” or “somewhat important” declined.

Look for this recent uptick in Cloud BI adoption to persist throughout 2014 as cloud solutions become more widely accepted and the market continues to mature.

#2: Demand for Mobile will Grow (For Some Things)

It seems like everyone is talking about mobile being the next big thing in BI. And to some extent, I would agree. Increased Cloud BI adoption will certainly translate into a growing demand for mobile apps that allow interactive consumption of BI content (for example, data discovery and dashboard viewing). However, few mobile users will be asking for advanced BI functionality such as data modeling and report creation just yet. Despite the hype, most users are looking for the basics this year.

#3: Big Data Hype will Abound

Big Data, Small Data from Big Data—however you package these solutions, they’re still intended for the handful of businesses that truly qualify as Big. For the majority of companies, Big Data is simply overkill and detracts from the important matter of getting the data needed to effectively do day-to-day jobs.

But with Big Data’s current sex appeal, it will no doubt continue to glow under a white-hot industry spotlight in 2014. For companies that aren’t big with a capital “B”, Big Data will continue to sit very comfortably in the Who Cares? column.

#4: The Business Analyst will Abide

Barring mass alien abductions, business analysts aren’t going anywhere this year. Much as vendors would like you to believe that business users can do absolutely everything involved in the business intelligence process, at present even the most user-friendly BI applications still require some people with specialized skills to set things up. These professionals don’t necessarily have to be “Data Scientists” but they do need to have more IT and data know-how than the average business user. Of course, the extent of their involvement depends on the complexity of the data and desired reports.

As business users get more data-savvy and BI tools get more business-user friendly, I’m confident we’ll eventually reach a tipping point where business users run the whole show, but it won’t happen in 2014.

#5: Vendors will Keep Talking About the Problem, Not the Solution

Expect to hear the same old story from BI vendors this year: BI is broken, BI is too hard to use, BI is too expensive, blah, blah, blah. I’ve been hearing this same story for the last 25 years. The truth is that while BI is perhaps not as easily “consumerized” as other software categories, we actually are making good progress towards greater self-service, affordability and agility. As a result, we’re solving problems.

I’d love to see the industry turning a corner and moving toward solution-based messaging that engages businesses in a more positive way. Sadly though, I expect the trend of vendors talking 90% problem, 10% solution, to continue. I’m reminded of a quote by Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” The BI industry has spent way too long focusing on the problem of drilling the hole and building the drill. Customers just want the hole—they really don’t care about the rest.

Mark Cunningham is a thought leader and entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience in the business intelligence (BI) industry. He has been on the founding team of four successful startups, including his current role as Founder & CEO of cloud-based business intelligence software company, Indicee.

Mark began his entrepreneurial career in 1992, when his family company began building the world’s first Windows-based reporting tool, Crystal Reports. Crystal was later acquired by Business Objects for $820M.

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