Emerging Technologies Will Marginalize IT's Role in BI, Gartner Predicts

End users will gain control thanks to give emerging technologies

End users frustrated by long request queues in IT will be pleased by a new prediction by analyst firm Gartner. It expects that by 2012, emerging technologies will make it easier to build and consume analytical applications, reducing IT's role in the task.

"Evidence suggests that BI is used aggressively by just 15 to 20 percent of business users. For the BI sector to thrive, it needs to overcome the fact that most business users feel BI tools are hard to use," said Kurt Schlegel, research director at Gartner, in a statement.

"Other technologies, such as personal productivity, collaboration, and Internet search have been widely adopted by mainstream users in both their business and personal lives. BI has the same opportunity for massive adoption, but it must overcome its well-earned reputation of being difficult to use."

Gartner says that much of the BI innovation will come from emerging technologies that will make it easier for end users to build and use their own reports and analytical applications. They identified five technologies driving mainstream BI adoption: interactive visualization, in-memory analytics, search integrated with BI, software as a service (SaaS), and service-oriented architecture (SOA).

While the innovation will make users less dependent on IT departments to meet their BI requirements, they still must take an active role. "BI teams need to understand how to leverage these emerging technologies to drive BI adoption, but do it in a way that doesn't undermine the organization's existing BI architecture and standards," Schlegel pointed out.

Interactive visualization will likely become a common front end to analytical applications in the next two years; reports and analytic applications will be easier and "more fun" to use, according to Gartner. Visualization's attractive display will help users unaccustomed to grid-style reports adopt BI, enabling typical BI tasks such as filtering data and drilling down into the details of data.

Because BI users want to review large amounts of data, IT has been needed to build aggregate and summary tables to optimize performance, hampering self-service BI. That's rapidly changing: memory prices are falling, and the rise of 64-bit computing is making in-memory analytics more attractive, easing the burden on IT to tune performance. Search is also playing a major role in the transition in two ways. First, search enables users to quickly find existing reports without navigating through lengthy or complex hierarchical folders, and relevancy rankings prioritize the results, though search doesn't help with formatting the results. Second, search helps users find answers from structured sources when a report hasn't been defined. Gartner says that "applying a search index to structured data sources, rows and columns, is emerging as way for end users to perform their own ad hoc exploration of the data."

The new technologies will be especially helpful to smaller enterprises, which typically have smaller investments in BI systems. For companies lacking a large (or adequate) IT staff, SaaS will help expand the use of analytical applications.

SOA, plus more development tools that use "drag and drop" approaches make it easier to build BI applications, but that's a double-edged sword. Easier development "has the potential to engender more rogue deployments that buck standards set by a central BI team in IT," Gartner notes.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (

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