Analysis: BI Transformation in 2009

Financial disruption may hold promise for BI, but it will also transform BI itself: big tools to small tools, fewer analysts and more business users, and finally appreciation for human intelligence.

Businesses met a new, gushing current this year: the deepening recession. A variety of sources tell me that the financial crisis will be 2009's primary driver, as trends from early this year accelerate.

In general, this is a time for BI to show what it can do. Organizations with mature BI will put it to the test as they decide who or what to cut and how to gain or maintain a competitive edge. Meanwhile, a surge of latecomers will show up looking for quick analysis, and the lucky ones will produce good results.

I saw several currents flowing through this year and see them continuing to dominate BI next year.

The few big tools will start giving way to many small tools. The supernovas of the BI universe will prove too expensive and too limiting to more organizations. Monocultures will begin to give way to polycultures. Small companies such as Tableau, Quantrix, Panorama, and others will innovate and gain favor. IT will remain the data custodian, but on business desktops new, highly individualized tools will sprout. Concerns about self-service chaos will be ignored for now. Visual analytics tools will prove one of the most useful and the easiest to deploy.

Business users will take more of BI back from analysts. In the process, they'll find out how important BI is to the organization. Paradoxically, the analyst corps may shrink. "There will be a lot fewer analysts," said one expert at a large vendor who asked for anonymity. Beware of the danger: poorly trained business users may "prove" the waste of analytics.

Analytics will gain new importance. On election night, how could anyone miss CNN's "The Wall"? During the recent election season, analytics were everywhere -- visualized, put into tables, and discussed -- on blogs, election-focused Web sites, and TV. Analytics is riding a wave in business, too, where better reporting and analysis are proving valuable in raising incremental revenue and improving customer retention.

BI's focus will sharpen on the human factor. Under a business roof, BI will look more like an everyday business function, and will live closer to the business. I particularly like the definition of BI that former TDWI education director Dave Wells proposed early this year: "Business intelligence is the ability of an organization or business to reason, plan, predict, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend, innovate, and learn in ways that increase organizational knowledge, inform decision processes, enable effective actions, and help to establish and achieve business goals."

BI will surge in the mid-market. Mid-sized organizations will try to cope by embracing BI. They'll opt for smaller, lower-priced analytics tools along with full-featured toolsets positioned for the mid-market. The smaller set of stakeholders in these organizations will make faster adoption possible. Existing mid-market BI vendors will be challenged by ERP providers, resulting in the elimination of weak BI providers.It's probably safe to say that next year at this time we'll have a changed industry.

About the Author

Ted Cuzzillo, CBIP, is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco area. He can be reached at

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