The Year That Self-Service Won

The cloud made self-service BI accessible. What's ahead for IT and business users?

By Sanjay Bhatia

This year, nearly every pillar of traditional IT infrastructure was replaced with new technology. Entire organizations can now be successfully run without a trace of legacy infrastructure -- even an IT department. The cloud has won. This well-defined cloud solution suggests that IT expertise is no longer needed to start new projects and launch new applications. Labor shortages in 2012 resulted in more business leaders partnering with cloud vendors to create successful teams.

2012 Self-service trend #1: Bring your own device and put IT in the hands of consumers

The launch day for the iPad2 was a pivotal event for enterprise IT. It was the first device that was both easy to use and affordable that executives would rather pay for it with their own money than wait for IT to approve the device. Indeed, the share of mobile Web usage shot up after the device's release.

2013 Prediction #1: IT finally gets out of the way

In 2013, the role of IT will rapidly evolve into one of compliance and data governance. Because department leaders are able to make online, next-day delivery purchases for devices that can easily be connected to cloud services, users chose to manage their own devices. Cloud vendors will increasingly win the battle against internal IT projects primarily because of the unprecedented shortage of skilled resources. With some product cycles as short as 6 months, sales executives will opt to launch a cloud solution "over the weekend" rather than wait a year for IT to go live on a new project. In 2013, IT organizations will have to adapt to the idea of treating business users like adults or see a mass exodus to cloud vendors who do.

2012 Self-service trend #2: Data scientist becomes the most sought-after job in America

Data scientists are now the most after group of people around. In a big data future, the ability to wield vast quantities of data is highly coveted. Enterprises that can attract these superstars generate significantly more shareholder value. As software is "eating the world," the data scientist plays a big role which companies benefit from the increased market share this trend offers.

2013 Prediction #2: Everyone uses self-service BI to appear more interesting

Data scientist positions are in high demand and most organizations don't have the budget or the cool factor to hire them. Because most data analytics is really about placing sums and counts into interactive charts, self-service BI platforms that let the end user do the majority of reports without writing code will ultimately dominate most organizations. Just as the Internet was once something only UNIX administrators were able to access, friendly front-end platforms can now be taught in minutes and will deliver the fastest ROI.

2012 Self-service trend #3: Big data technologies shake decades-old assumptions about data analytics

A few years ago, I wrote an article about how SQL was the x86 of business and why it will continue to dominate data platforms for decades. Just a few years later, ARM-based devices are in all of our pockets and the next version of Windows and Microsoft Office work on ARM tablets. Rumors continue to swirl about Apple switching to ARM for devices such as MacBooks in a few years. These surprising turns of events have parallels in the data world. RESTFul Web services such as OData and schema-less databases are augmenting and, in some cases, replacing SQL for big data workloads.

2013 Prediction #3: Big data becomes a feature

The large database vendors will not be left behind. They are aggressively acquiring big data technology providers and adding those platforms as "features" to their tried-and-true database management systems. For example, Microsoft is adding both Hadoop support and columnar storage through its xVelocity engine to the next release of SQL Server 2012. Rather than implementing an entirely new infrastructure, big data features will be something you can instantly turn on. Best of all, you will not need to re-train your staff or find developers with the right skill set.

Sanjay Bhatia is the founder and CEO of Izenda, a developer of embedded business intelligence for business applications built on the Microsoft platform. The company's cloud-optimized HTML5-powered self-service reporting technology provides flexible forms, ad hoc reporting, and interactive dashboards. Prior to founding Izenda, Mr. Bhatia worked in engineering and consulting positions at Radiant Systems, Trilogy, and Microsoft. You can contact the author at sanjay@izenda.com or follow him on Twitter at @DataSanj.
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