I recently read an article by my colleague, Paul Grill, about his top prediction for 2014. I agree with him about Affordable BI For All and wanted to add my voice to the discussion before January is over. So, my prediction for 2014: BI for the Masses.
I predict that the spread of BI will finally reach the true SME market space. I think the driving factors for this will be cloud-based solutions, the use of mash-ups, and subscription based licensing that will allow SMEs to finally afford and see an ROI from a BI investment.
Many vendors have started to release their products with one or two free user licenses and will allow a small group of people to share and collaborate on BI content between them. The reality is that one or two free licenses can only take you so far. Most companies quickly outgrow this as they want to share their information with a larger audience. When trying to scale, the licensing costs can become unaffordable for SMEs. The way around this becomes a series of time consuming manual processes that involve sharing the content through a different medium, like Excel spreadsheets or PDFs. Now this is all well and good, but the power of the content is in the interactivity and providing the user an engaging experience where they can find answers to their questions. However, if you can automate the delivery of PDFs and Excel documents that provide valuable information, then you have powerful information delivered to a lot of people.
As seen with the emergence of several data visualization tools, people love to see visualizations rather than spreadsheets. I’m not saying that spreadsheets are going away. They have their place and will continue to be popular among some analysts and finance professionals. But, I am saying that the growing demand for visualizations is apparent. This will push the need for more dashboard development with a bigger need around data management. The reason why I feel this way is because dashboards allow a great deal of functionality and provide the ability to engage end users.
More than just summary data:
People not only want to view summary level data in their dashboards, they also want to see how far the details go and they expect the response time to be instantaneous. Not only that, but the developer will only need to build and maintain one dashboard to replace a large volume of reports.
So why to the masses?
There has been a data transparency push for the last several years; One that requires us to show all of the information to more people. When people have information, they become empowered to make better business decisions. With more people craving more data, the trick to minimizing support will be in presenting the data in Dashboards and Applications in such a way that is so simple that it eliminates the need for training; I’m talking about Dashboards and Applications designed with the user in mind. And like I said, knowledge is power. The more people you can inform and involve the more you will impact not only your ROI, but the success of your business.