Do you remember Mary Poppins singing “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”? The third generation of Business Intelligence might be the spoonful of sugar that will help BI to be accepted and used by everyone within organizations.
For the last 30 years Business Intelligence has improved significantly. When it first started, it had a tool-centric nature and took at least a month to produce a report.
It evolved to become a web and scalable solution in its second generation. It also added new options, users could now explore data and make predictive analysis. It became faster as the average waiting time for a report dropped for a month to a week.
However, the limitations related to user experience remain almost the same. The control and use of BI within organizations is restricted to a minority – IT and data scientists. The complexity of these kind of tools kept business users on the sidelines of BI.
Business Intelligence was still an expensive “medicine” that the patient disliked and didn’t produce the promised effects.
But things are starting to change. The third generation of BI appears by the hands of vendors who wanted to achieve new markets and organizations that realized the perks of democratizing access to data throughout their staff.
The third generation of Business Intelligence can be summarized in three main points:
- Users have real-time access to data anywhere, anytime and in any kind of device (desktop, tablet and mobile phones);
- As the approach to BI becomes app-centric, users no longer need a computer or data science degree, neither endless training hours to start interacting with it;
- Social and collaborative capabilities are added to BI, making it ideal to workgroups.
These aren’t new ideas. Vendors have already integrated some of these features in their products. However, these vendors haven’t quite met the goals of BI 3.0. They made major improvements on BI user experience and data visualization but are they true self-service solutions?
According to Business Application Research Center’s BI Survey 14, casual users are still a majority (70%), but decreased 10% since last year. This category includes “business people who use information to do their jobs – executives, managers and front-line workers”.
From these 70%, only 25% is able to perform self-service tasks. Here is where something doesn’t seem right. If main vendors are claiming to be BI 3.0 and “easy for everyone solutions” why only 25% of casual users are able to work with it independently?
BI’s third generation software are still complex and hard to learn. As they fail to fulfill the demand for self-service solutions, a fourth generation is arising to close that void.
Some companies, mainly startups, are aiming for a kind of business experience more similar to the one users have with Google and smartphones’ apps, one that doesn’t come with endless training sessions and an instructions manual.
This fourth generation will allow users to independently explore, analyze and produce BI. They will free organizations from the complexity and unavailability of data, achieving effortless BI.
As the most innovative BI tools are coming from startups, it will be interesting to see how this race between more complex solutions for major vendors and app-centric solutions from startups will end.