Access and Feeds

Business Intelligence: Self Service Tools Put Data Analytics into the Hands of Average Users

By Dick Weisinger

Business Intelligence technology is evolving quickly.  BI is moving from something that has traditionally been very complex and which required significant training and deep skills in data analysis to something which is much much more interactive, more visual, and easier to use by a greater range of end users.  Analysts are describing this new breed of business intelligence tools as being “self service“.  Some vendors prefer to describe it as “Comsumer App Business Intelligence”, highlighting the easy usability of the software.

BI tools now are typically web-based and allow end users to interactively query, report and visualize their business data.  The target users for these new BI tools are now nontechnical users.  Self-service BI products are being offered by vendors like Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Information Builders, Tibco Software, QlikTech and Tableau Software.  Developing reports from Business Intelligence applications has typically been a chore.  These new software products reduces the effort considerably and make it easier to personalize the report, allowing each user to drill down into just the areas of data which they are most interested.

Aberdeen Group has found that 67 percent of “best in class” businesses and 21 percent of all other businesses are already using “self service” Business Intelligence applications to help their business decision making processes.

Besides just improved ease of use of Business Intelligence applications, other general technology trends are at work in accelerating the use of BI.  These include SaaS, Open Source and real-time analytics.

BI tools are increasingly being provided via SaaS delivery.  The advantage of SaaS is that BI capabilities can be obtained at lower cost, opening up the world of BI to smaller companies that may not have otherwise been able to afford the technology.  SaaS allows companies to run BI applications without a large support staff and don’t need to manage the IT infrastructure.

Open Source BI tools are also lowering costs and providing flexible and more easily customizable software offerings.  Open Source BI tools are being created by vendors like Pentaho, Infobright and LucidDB, Talend and Jaspersoft.  Technologies like NoSQL and Hadoop are also accelerating the growth in this area.

In-memory computing technology is speeding up the processing times of Business Intelligence.  Being able to process data in RAM memory rather than by using disk storage boosts processing speeds dramatically.  This allows Business Intelligence to become more real time and enables interactivity.  Companies like Attivo and Endeca are working to improve data analytics speed by using in-memory technologies.

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