The promise of business intelligence (BI) software is to enable decision makers at all levels in an organization to leverage data for business advantage—to explore data, draw insights and meaningful conclusions, and make better decisions. Traditional BI solutions have delivered reliable, operational data tied to pre-defined, static reports—but haven’t provided the self-service, on-the-fly, user-driven source of insight people crave for addressing daily business challenges.
IT organizations tend to favor report-based BI solutions from stack vendors like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. But business users are becoming more vocal, demanding, and influential than ever. They are going out and purchasing BI software on their own–and they’re not buying traditional BI solutions.
Business users are choosing what Gartner calls data discovery platforms, and we call Business Discovery platforms. And they’re buying in droves. According to market research firm IDC, end-user query, reporting, and analysis tools (which include Business Discovery platforms) comprised more than 80% of the BI tools market in 2010. In this research, IDC found that smaller vendors such as QlikTech are outpacing the overall market growth.
Traditional BI Is IT-Driven and Tightly Controlled
Analyst research shows that what business users want from BI is the ability to ask and answer questions on their own so they can make better business decisions. But traditional BI solutions aren’t well-suited to users who need to directly interrogate or interact with data in a self-sufficient manner. Instead, what business users get from traditional BI is a report-centric solution (see Figure 1). They get fixed drill paths, predefined reports and queries, pre-configured dashboards, and locked-down data definitions.
With traditional BI, the role of the IT organization is to create data models, establish a semantic layer, build reports and dashboards, and protect and control the data. As a result of this intensive workload, user requests for new queries and reports can accumulate in a long queue, leading to user frustration and reducing the value the organization gets from its BI investments.
Business Discovery is user-driven business intelligence that helps people make decisions based on multiple sources of insight: data, people, and the environment. With Business Discovery platforms, users can create and share knowledge and analysis in groups and across organizations. Business Discovery helps users ask and answer their own questions and follow their own path to insight. It enables teams of people to reach decisions collaboratively. Business Discovery delivers:
• Insight everywhere. Instead of just a few people involved in creating insights, Business Discovery enables everyone to participate. It’s analogous to open source computing, peer creation, or open innovation. Business Discovery is about intelligence creation — rather than just information consumption. It is not about a big set of centrally-controlled, prepackaged, and tightly-distributed data delivered to passive end users. Rather, it’s about providing data access and analysis to individuals and groups, and letting them get what they need more rapidly and precisely than ever before.
• An app model. No one needs the headache of deploying and managing monolithic business applications. Business Discovery platforms empower users of varying skill levels to contribute to the creation and deployment of straightforward, purpose-built, intuitive apps that can be easily reused — and discarded when no longer needed. Apps are easy to modify, mash up, and share, and enable innovation to flourish at the edges of the organization and spread inward. The new opportunity in BI is leveraging a model that lets any user quickly develop and deploy task-specific Business Discovery apps.
• Remixability and reassembly. Nobody can predict what questions business users will have when they start exploring data — not even the users themselves. Traditional BI solutions require IT pros to get and stay involved, creating new queries and reports whenever users come up with new questions. In contrast, Business Discovery platforms make it easy for business users themselves to remix and reassemble data in new views on their own and in groups, and to easily create new visualizations for deeper understanding.
• A social and collaborative experience. Discoveries are one thing — sharing them is another. Often the real value of a discovery is unlocked when a minor breakthrough in one part of the company leads to a major one elsewhere. Business Discovery is about nurturing communities of people who engage in active decision-making to drive knowledge that can cascade across an organization. Business Discovery enables users to collaborate on insights and move toward decisions either directly within their Business Discovery apps or through integration with enterprise collaboration tools like Microsoft SharePoint or Salesforce Chatter.
• Mobility. Business decision makers at all levels in an organization need data at their fingertips, wherever they are. Tablets and other large form factor mobile devices promise to make business data ubiquitous. Unlike traditional BI solutions, which address the need for mobile solutions by delivering static reports and dashboards to mobile devices, mobile Business Discovery platforms provide an intuitive interface and an application infrastructure that is tailor-made for users to explore data and draw associations and insights wherever they happen to be working.
Business Discovery: The Next Generation of BI
Business Discovery is what’s next in BI. With Business Discovery, business users pursue their own path to insight, make discoveries collaboratively, and arrive at a whole new level of decision-making. They make decisions based on multiple sources of insight: data, people, and the environment. With Business Discovery platforms, users are not limited to predefined paths they must follow, or questions they must formulate ahead of time. They ask what they need to ask, and explore up, down, and sideways rather than only drilling down in predetermined ways. While organizations will continue to need standardized reporting for some use cases, Business Discovery is the approach that ultimately fulfills the promise of BI.