In this edition of “Ask the Industry Analyst,” we sit down with Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer of Dresner Advisory Services, and a well-known authority and author in the areas of Business Intelligence (BI) and Performance Management (PM).
Howard also recently was a guest on our monthly webcast, IBM Tech Talk, discussing best practices and trends in Mobile BI. The webcast is available on-demand here.
As we’ve seen, organizations today are looking for new user experiences that expand traditional BI solutions with planning, scenario modeling, real-time monitoring and predictive analytics. Using a limitless BI workspace supporting how people think and work – in the office, on the go and even offline – decision makers want to quickly search and assemble all perspectives of the business.
Below we chat with Howard about upcoming trends in BI and PM, the “operationalizing” of analytics, results from his 3rd Mobile BI Market study and what to expect in 2012, including cloud, collaboration and mobile.
You've been around the BI and PM industry for many years, what changes have been the most significant for customers?
At a macro level, BI has become very mainstream and the adoption of BI across large enterprises and SMBs is substantial. It has always been a high priority for users and management alike, however, now the technology is approachable for more average types of users. Vendors are now designing their products for end users in mind and not IT. This is especially true in the mobile world.
We are also starting to see customers using BI as part of their business applications (e.g. ERP or CRM) from the beginning. Customers are thinking of BI and analytics at the outset and the value this analysis provides, rather than processing the data and then waiting for someone to come up with an idea of how to analyze it.
Can you talk more about the mainstreaming of analytics?
Moving forward there are several things that are really important to customers. Topping the list is pushing BI and analytics further down into the operations of organizations to professional line management roles.
Traditionally BI has been a really valuable barometer providing a strategic perspective on the historical performance to date. As organizations continue to amass varying data sources – and more of it – they have to have an easy way to push this intelligence to tactical areas of the organization so quick decisions can be made as opportunities present themselves.
For example, it’s becoming increasingly important for retailers to correct something minor at a store level before it becomes a significant issue. I talked to one retailer who was alerted because a popular SKU was not selling well on a particular day as opposed to other days and compared with other stores. This information was passed to the store manager in real-time, and they learned that there was something physically in front of the display preventing customers to see the product.
Bottom-line: A minor course correction multiplied by thousands of stores can be extremely significant.
This is very similar to what we found in our Wisdom of Crowds study in May 2011 along with advanced analytics (data mining), in-memory analytics, collaborative decision-making and mobile.
Speaking of mobile, you just released the 3rd Mobile BI Market Study; can you share some of the key highlights?
The world is changing, so fasten your seatbelt. Mobile (e.g. tablets) continues to have a huge impact on business and the way decisions are being made. For a number of individuals going forward this will be their primary device, especially younger employees who have never actually used a computer.
In a number of customer or patient-facing industries, mobile is just far more efficient and ideal. It also has a psychological aspect that makes the device far more approachable and creates a better conversation versus someone talking over a computer.
Tablets also hold caché and a cool factor. And, executives are the number one consumers because of that factor, as well as the fact they provide tremendous value. Once the executives adopt them, then you will see a huge proliferation in the devices. This is very different from what we saw last year.
What were the major changes in the results of this survey over the last one you did?
From 2010 to 2011, executives jumped 12 percent as the primary targets, followed by middle management, who were the biggest jump for the primary focus of Mobile BI. It’s interesting to see executives get excited about Mobile BI as most of them own a tablet.
There was also a big increase in penetration and deployment plans. Globally last year, 73 percent said deployment would be under 10 percent, but now it’s 58 percent. Looking out even further, there are very ambitious and aggressive plans to deliver Mobile BI more broadly.
North America and smaller organizations appear to be leading the charge towards Mobile BI. North America because they tend to be early adopters and smaller organizations because they can most readily integrate and benefit from new technologies.
Finally, 65 percent said exclusive Mobile BI use wouldn’t be less than 10 percent over the course of the next two years. That sounds like a paradigm shift. It’s changing the way we work.
What is some advice that you can give to customers who currently have a Mobile BI solution or are thinking about deploying one?
If you are not doing mobile now, begin a proof of concept as soon as possible. This technology is not standing still. If you wait, you'll never do anything. There are huge direct benefits to the organization, which at the minimum are efficiency and effectiveness, especially for those in operational roles. Dragging your feet is not an option.
Secondly, you need to ask yourself, “What do I want to automate?” Anyone who is moving from their desk to somewhere – across campus, to a manufacturing shop floor, or the traditional road warrior – is mobile. So pick your targets. In fact, those people might already be out there and using their devices for business. Go find them and automate those people and their processes.
What are some of the key BI trends moving forward that will create opportunity for customers?
There are three key foundations of BI moving forward: Cloud, Collaboration and Mobile.
· Cloud – Today, smaller organizations seem to think that BI wasn’t made for them. That is untrue. They won’t have the technological staff or resources, but they will have an internet connection. BI can, and will, happen in the cloud for those who want ready-access to applications and data. And, more vendors continue to invest to make this technology a success.
· Collaboration – We have fewer expert resources and truth be told, email doesn’t really help us as much as we need it to. So, if I have a collaborative engine that is supporting my functional area, I can focus all the interactions in one place increasing the ability for structured and workflow collaboration. But, this will only be successful if the organization supports a collaborative culture.
· Mobile – Contrary to what IT and finance might want to believe, Mobile BI is going to shift the industry. The insights now follow you around and with more eyes on the data, organizations can better align their employees with the overall mission and increase the confidence in the decisions. It also creates a better culture of accountability and transparency. Eventually an organization will turn on its afterburners when the culture aligns with BI.
For more information:
· Listen to the recent IBM Tech Talk with Howard Dresner
· Read a previous “Ask the Industry Analyst” Q&A with Leslie Ament from Hypatia Research
· Download the free IBM Cognos Mobile App for the iPad in the iTunes store