Business Intelligence for everyone: Getting started has never been this easy!

The current range of products and services on the business intelligence (BI) market is extremely broad and makes the technology accessible to everyone. Whether an enterprise-wide information management system for day-to-day reports is needed, or if users are to be given the option to analyze their own data based on impressive visual analytics; getting started in business intelligence has never been this easy.  Elnaz Yahyai, COMPAREX Consultant BI & Analytics, gives an update on the “new” business intelligence.

The future of business intelligence means self-service BI and data discovery

The world of BI is changing. In recent years, the gap between business and IT has grown smaller. Specialist departments can now apply new solutions to obtain reports without having to first consult their colleagues in IT. And that’s a good thing. It is increasingly vital to respond quickly to the needs of the market. There simply isn’t enough time to wait weeks or months for reports, which in the end may even focus on little more than a few data sets. Organizations want and need to become more intelligent. Analytics solutions allow companies to improve their data analysis and hence to predict customer behavior, risks, resources, attempted fraud and other relevant factors.

Self-service BI and data discovery will dominate the future of the field. Both these factors allow users to operate intuitive interfaces to conduct their own in-depth analyses quickly and simply. Creative data analysis is now accessible to everyone. And it’s fun, too.

This year again, Gartner has also placed its focus on self-service BI and data discovery. The Magic Quadrant for BI & Analytics released by the market research company reflects market movements: Tableau, Qlik and Power-BI populate the leader’s quadrant on their own, replacing traditional vendors like Oracle, IBM and SAP. This has been a dramatic game-changer, and companies would be well advised to check whether they have room to optimize their own BI portfolio.

End of the road for IT managed BI?

Almost every organization uses information management systems. Although a fair number of companies continue to trust in Excel, the trend is moving clearly towards business intelligence solutions. This is primarily driven by the necessity to measure developments within the enterprise.

IT managed BI means business intelligence that is controlled by IT within a traditional setting. It involves complex technical solutions requiring specific expertise. Therefore, the IT department is responsible for providing all reports, which makes users dependent on IT and introduces a matching level of inflexibility. It can indeed take a while until users receive the information they need, and modifications quite frequently need months until they are complete. The reports must also be altered if there are any changes in the kind of information the users require.

IT managed BI does have advantages, though. It is easily scalable, as all of the enquiries run via the IT department. Also data quality is guaranteed and the risk of information silos limited.
Each organization – irrespective of its size or industry – will need functional and ready-for-use financial reports and dashboards. IT managed BI will tick the boxes in some cases.

The benefits of self-service-BI

It is becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to set themselves apart from the competition. To do so, they need to introduce more efficient and effective management systems in addition to keeping their fingers firmly on the pulse of the market.

The availability and evaluability of large data sets – externally and internally ¬– allow companies to obtain valuable insight, to identify trends, to discover new patterns and quickly to infer definite calls for action based on the information they obtain. This will require a completely different, non-central approach than IT managed business intelligence. The self-service BI and data discovery tools quickly and easily allow each area of the company to produce their own reports without having to consult the IT department.

Self-service BI and data discovery tools represent high-performance visual analytics solutions that enable their users to review, analyze and visualize their own data. And because these users are more familiar with the data than anyone else, the solutions described above will help them achieve the maximum benefits.

Although self-service BI and data discovery tools are extremely flexible, user friendly, intuitive to operate and interactive, it is nevertheless important to ensure that they are not used in an excessively independent setting. There may be contradictory or incorrect conclusions and decisions if a disproportionately large number of people work on data analysis within one organization. Collaborating with IT in respect to data governance and management remains an essential element within BI.

Business Intelligence, Self-Service BI: Dashboard (example) Business Intelligence, Self-Service BI: Dashboard (example)

Business intelligence, business analytics, advanced analytics...

New terms and solutions have emerged – among them business analytics and advanced analytics – besides business intelligence itself. Although they are mentioned as independent solutions, they are all sub-disciplines within BI. Business intelligence refers to meaningful information about a company in regard to management, the market or the customer. No matter whether the data refers to the past, the present or the future, the purpose is still to collect information and communicate knowledge. Hence, it is reasonable to perceive BI as an umbrella term comprising a variety of functions that reflect specific wishes and needs.

The different sub-terms depend on the various functions and purposes that the company associates with business intelligence. At a glance, the most important differences are:

  • Business intelligence has a descriptive function; it collects and analyzes current data with the aim of improving management.
  • Business analytics looks into the future by collating and analyzing historical data with a view to predicting business trends and to becoming more innovative.
  • Advanced analytics actually builds on business analytics, providing technical analysis functions such as data mining, statistical analyses, predictive analytics, and simulation models. Besides trends, its purpose is to predict the latest activities, solutions and decisions.


Will self-service BI and data discovery tools prevail? Opinions are divided here. IT managed BI and self-service BI do not necessarily get in each other’s way, so there is no reason why they cannot work in tandem. But it is not possible to compare the technologies, as they represent two very different methods. In most cases it will be beneficial to introduce some kind of combined approach.

The market for BI & analytics is growing at a helter-skelter pace, quite aside from the technology issue. Companies have recognized the value and necessity of meaningful BI data. Gartner states that by 2017, most technical and analyst within companies will have access to self-service tools. It is no surprise therefore that there is increasing demand for relevant solutions from vendors like SAS, Microsoft IBM, Tableau and SAP.

About the author

A member of the Big Data & Analytics Team, Elnaz Yahyai advises customers on the possibilities and value of BI & Analytics solutions.

Elnaz Yahyai, COMPAREX Consultant BI & Analytics

Leipzig, 4/13/2016

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