New technology to marginalise IT's BI role

BI developers must make their tools easier to use

By 2012, emerging technologies will make it easier to build and consume analytical applications, reducing the role of the information technology (IT) department in building these applications, according to Gartner.

"Evidence suggests that BI is used aggressively by just 15 to 20 per cent of business users. For the BI sector to thrive, it needs to overcome the fact that most business users feel BI tools are hard to use," explained Neil McMurchy, research director at Gartner.

"Other technologies, such as personal productivity, collaboration and Internet search have been widely adopted by mainstream users in both their business and personal lives. BI has the same opportunity for massive adoption, but it must overcome its well-earned reputation of being difficult to use".

Much of the innovation in the BI space will come from emerging technologies that will make it easier for users to build and consume their own reports and analytical applications. In particular, five technologies -- interactive visualisation, in-memory analytics, search integrated with BI, software as a service (SaaS) and service-oriented architecture (SOA) -- will help drive mainstream BI adoption.

"However, as a result of this innovation, individuals and workgroups will be less dependent on central IT departments to meet their BI requirements," McMurchy said. "BI teams need to understand how to use these emerging technologies to drive BI adoption, but do it in a way that doesn't undermine the organisation's existing BI architecture and standards".

Interactive visualisation will be quickly accepted during the next two years as a common front-end to analytical applications, driven by the ubiquity of rich Internet applications. This technology trend will make reports and analytic applications easier and more fun to use. With its attractive display, it should be more widely adopted by users who aren't accustomed to the grid style of analysis and reporting offered by relational databases and spreadsheets. By definition, interactive visualisation enables users to perform typical BI tasks, such as data filters, drill down, and pivots, with little training by interacting with the visual, such as clicking on a pie wedge, or circling the dots on a scatter plot.

Smaller companies that lack a current base of investments in BI systems will increasingly turn to service companies to deliver services that integrate, analyse, and report on data from numerous systems. Wider adoption of SaaS business models will make analytical applications more widely used, particularly among midsize companies. However, even large companies with full BI and data warehouse teams will embrace the SaaS model for some aspects of BI. The best example today is in Web site analytics, where business users -- typically in marketing -- can access very sophisticated reports and analytic applications of Web site activity with virtually no need for IT by using a software-as-a-service provider.

SOA, coupled with a move toward a model-driven architecture, based on a visual drag-and-drop development style, will make it easier to build BI applications. A proliferation of this drag-and-drop style of development will drive resurgence in departmental analytical application development. This will, in turn, encourage adoption and usage, but also has the potential to result in more rogue deployments that buck standards set by a central BI team in IT.

Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report.

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