The end of business intelligence is coming, and it’s about time.
If you are like most consumers of business intelligence products, you start your day by checking a series of dashboards that summarize many different aspects of your business. Some companies have a few dashboards, others have dozens, but even after consuming all of that information, have you ever wondered about what you are missing? What is hiding in your data that you don’t see in those dashboards? Today’s business leaders no longer worry about finding answers, they are not even sure what questions they should be asking.
How did we get here? Over the past ten years, the rise of cloud computing and the innovation around “big data” have led to an explosion in the amount of data a business gathers on a daily basis. While estimates vary, some predict a 4,300% increase in the data generated by businesses in the next 3 years. That data is no longer just in databases or in analytics systems as all of the systems that are used to run a business (CRM, customer success, analytics, marketing) have become fountains of data. The current generation of business intelligence tools was not designed to deal with this tsunami of data.
How do I know what questions to ask?
We are seeing the end of the current wave of business intelligence innovation and the beginning of a new one. In some ways, the last two waves of innovation in business intelligence have created this problem for themselves. Data centralization brought together all the data for the business in a single place, making it easy to know where to look for answers. Data visualization tools have made extracting those answers easy and accessible, allowing anyone in the organization to make use of them. These two waves were so successful that they have accelerated data growth and created the need for another wave.
Business intelligence tools in the future will need to do more than show data visualizations, they will need to do some of the analysis for you. This is the only way to deal with the rapid growth of business data, as humans are not equipped to sort through such mountains of data.
In this new wave of innovation, automated analysis systems will constantly examine all of a business’ data and provide a constant stream of insights related to changes in the business. These tools will understand your business cycles, trends and patterns to find insights that would otherwise be hidden from human eyes. Gone will be the days of checking dozens of dashboards, these new tools will automatically discover a handful of the most important questions about your business and provide you answers and insights, while hiding the complexity behind the scenes.
What does the future look like?
This new wave is being accelerated by the decomposition of the business intelligence value chain. During the initial waves of business intelligence, vendors were vertically integrated products and services that did everything from data collection to data visualization. Today, the rise of function-specific products makes it easy to assemble your own analytics stack, meaning that companies can build their own value chain.
This opens the door for automation. Companies are already forcing their business intelligence systems to conform to their needs by selecting the right tools for each step of their value chain. The next logical step is to have business intelligence systems reduce the effort required to find value in your data. This does not mean the other tools in the value chain will be reduced, in fact it is more likely that their value will increase. When customers are armed with well-defined insights that require further investigation everyday and need those tools more than ever.
The future is bright for this new approach to business data, as we already see companies like IBM (Watson Analytics) and Google (Automated Insights) offering early entrants into this market. In just the past month we have seen the announcement of new intelligent data products from Adobe (Sensei), Domo (Mr. Roboto) and Outlier. These new services will make the other links in the value chain more valuable because customers will use them more frequently (and more deeply) to address the insights suggested by automation.
Imagine a new world, when you as a decision-maker start your day not with dashboards, but a simple summarized report of what is happening in your business that requires your attention. Those handfuls of insights can capture all of the important changes and some hidden opportunities, all waiting for you every morning when you start your day. Instead of wondering what you might be missing, you will know exactly what needs to be done.
The end of business intelligence is coming, and the future looks bright.