Either you are new to BI and have just started looking for a solution or you already have one but it is not filling your expectations this post will help you understand the advantages and limitations of search based BI and more importantly if it is the right solution for you.
What is search based BI
In few words search based BI lets you explore your data by entering queries in a search box using everyday language, like so: “opportunities by month in 2015”.
It is similar to Google in the way that let users access data just by typing or dictating queries, giving them a more familiar experience. But it does more than simply search for information, it is able to perform analytics and present relationship between different data sets. The results come in seconds and in the form of data visualization (charts).
Perks and Limitations
The possibility of democratizing access to data would give companies a great competitive advantage but it also has some issues to overcome. Here is a list of arguments both in favor and against search based BI:
- Faster to deploy: You don’t need a combination of products, the same product is able to extract, load, index, and present data, so the time required to implement a Search-based BI solution is significantly shorter.
- User friendly: End users are now familiar with this kind of “Google” interface. It does not requires IT skills or long training sessions, as a consequence, users are much more independent from IT departments.
- Real-time analysis: If the software is easy to use, anyone at any time can search for information and perform analytics, getting up to date insights. This puts aside static reports, typical on more traditional BI and gives you real-time access to business data.
- Flexibility: Search Engines are more flexible when it comes to deal with evolving data structures. Indexing new data doesn’t require extensive data-modeling. On the other hand, on traditional BI tools each time new data is added to the Data Warehouse it will require time consuming modeling.
- All data in one place: It is common for companies, even for those with report solutions, to end up crossing information in a spread sheet. This is not only time consuming but increases the probability of error. Search based BI software connects with multiple data sources, gathering all the information you need in one place.
There is one limitation that all vendors face and that is common to all natural language systems: ambiguity. This is the biggest challenge. For humans it is easy to comprehend the meaning behind each sentence as we are able to understand context, tone of voice and common sense. For machines that is not the case and even a small sentence can have multiple meanings. Let me give you an example: when you say “Orders by city”, did you mean “city” as the place where the order was made or the city mentioned in the billing address.
Thankfully some vendors already solved this issue. For instance Wizdee presents the interpretation that the system made from the query. If the system didn’t get it right you can change the interpretation and it will learn with your interactions. In the end it will be able to identify the most suitable meaning according to context.
But is it for me?
There is not a typical client or industry to search based BI. Many analysts start by restricting it to small and medium businesses in particular because implementations are quick and all users are able to perform analytics by themselves.
However, there is a growing trend of organizations that are realizing the importance of self-service analytics. A recent survey focused on decision makers from UK found that over 50% of participants were looking to opened up analytics to the whole organization.
To find out if Search Based BI is the best solution for you, start by understanding your needs. Here is a list that will help you on that:
Search based BI is the best solution if you:
- Have to wait several days to get reports from your IT department;
- Want to explore data by yourself but don’t have IT skills;
- Need real-time and fast access to data to keep up with market changes;
- Want your team to have easy and direct access to data (even field workers);
- Still spend time gathering information in Excel;
- Spend a lot of time travelling and need access to information anywhere.
What should you hope to achieve
There are three main goals that you should be focused on achieving when going for a Search Based Business Intelligence:
- Productivity, easy and fast access to real time information to everyone in your company;
- Data based culture, decisions and opinions should be based on data not on gut feelings; and
- Responsiveness, your company should be able to make decisions faster than ever.
Ultimately better and faster decisions will take you ahead of you competition.
Is this what you are aiming to achieve?
Hope we manage to give an overview of Search Based BI and help you understand if this is the best solution for you. Either way, Search Based BI is here to stay!