Against this backdrop, workplace dynamics are shifting. Line of business employees are out of the traditional office boundaries much more frequently. IT staff are becoming more closely aligned with business strategy and corporate goals. Organizations want to manage information, not paper. Executives want to confidently and continuously monitor sales pipeline dashboards and key company metrics without increasing energy consumption. Health care workers want the ability to respond to critical patient updates from the field without delay. Sales personnel want to move from laptops to handhelds with key account information on their hip. Municipal staffs want to provide services that integrate structured reports and unstructured data like images and Web content for residents.
Business intelligence is an integral part of the software glue that binds relevant information to intelligent decisions across organizations.
As I look into the analytics crystal technology ball for 2009 and beyond, BI continues to make businesses smarter, especially during these difficult economic times. IT and finance departments will continue to partner with the business on analytics initiatives to address the growing demand for more personalized, relevant information and streamlined decision-making. Through BI, they can capitalize on current and growing industry trends like green computing, social networking, data visualization, mobile, predictive analytics, composite applications, cloud computing and multitouch. Users can glean business insights that enable their organizations to leverage collective intelligence for sustainable competitive advantage for many years to come.
Let’s examine a few of these current trends and their relationship to BI and organizational decision-making to improve business performance.
Today, companies are anxious to reduce their carbon footprint by slashing paper consumption. Generation-Y workers who have grown up in a digital age and view paper as an old-school irritation are helping to push this trend to the forefront of company agendas.
BI has been in the business of paper elimination for years, helping enterprises eliminate manual reporting and analysis, streamline personnel and electronically distribute virtualized paper reports on business performance over the Web. By moving hundreds of reports online rather than printing them out for manual consumption, customers are discovering significant reductions in paper consumption. One customer estimates they are saving the equivalent of 255,000 sheets of paper a year or more – enough to run the length of 5,519 football fields.
Organizations can expand paper-elimination initiatives by linking their BI systems to modern mainframe systems that offer improved performance, reduced power usage, cooling costs and floor space requirements. They can also run at utilization rates as high as 100 percent for long periods of time. Power that is consumed is used for transaction processing, rather than just keeping the servers' lights on. When you pair broad-ranging BI capabilities like monitoring, performance analysis and reporting with modern mainframes, organizations have the ability to transform their aging data centers with low environmental impact. The result is a greener approach to transforming business information for improved decision-making with the ability to analyze and report on hundreds of millions of transactions directly on the mainframe, so workers across the organization can quickly identify and respond to critical business trends.
Social networking describes a class of software, usually Web-based, that recognizes human activity and relationships both as interesting and important data, and as a way for users to interact. A key component of Web 2.0, examples of social networking programs such as Facebook and Digg dominate the consumer space.
Social networking programs are increasing in use within the enterprise because collaboration through human activity, input and relationships are as important inside the enterprise as they are in the outside world. Newer BI capabilities such as the ability to add annotations or notes with commentary on business reports comes an understanding of user activity, popularity and relationships to IT, as they drive increased collaboration and sharing of trusted information through analytical systems.
This year and into 2010, we’ll continue to see more advances in social networking and BI. Small, ad hoc teams of decision-makers will need to rally themselves, share artifacts, make decisions and disband in a simple and repeatable way. The decision artifacts will become part of the corporate memory, be able to be mined for future decisions and provide a useful decision trail.
Data visualization is the discipline around the ability to visualize data and communicate information about the data in a clear and effective manner. Data visualization should not be confused with graphics or charting; the best visualizations do not necessarily involve the most complex graphics or charts, but rather the best representation of the data. However, an element of elegance and aesthetics plays a role in an image’s ability to effectively communicate its message. Additionally, many data visualizations involve interaction beyond simple static images, such as controls or direct manipulation gestures, to aid in the exploration of the information being visualized.
Data visualization has long been associated with BI, from early software offerings that let employees create advanced data visualizations for their dashboards to the interactive charting and visualization capabilities found today across modern BI reporting, analysis and dashboarding capabilities. Continued exploration of effective and highly interactive presentations through visualization will be a focal point of analytics solutions for years to come.
Mobile is used to indicate applications that extend outside of the traditional office environment on devices other than traditional desktop or laptop computers. The message-focused approach of mobile solutions lets short, smart messages be delivered through BI event notification technology to mobile clients. The fairly recent intersection of wireless devices and BI lets mobile business users and executives more easily view and interact with the same analytics they would find on their desktop via their mobile device for efficient decision-making.