It’s Time to Think Different About BI platforms

The pace of business change is higher than it has ever been. A big influence is the emergence of digital channels and disruptions in every industry from existing competition and new entrants. Compounding this is an exponential increase in data to analyze. Though much of this comes from mobile, there are also massive volumes of data from the internet of things (IoT), as well as the ability to ingest and mash-up external data.

*Stats from Forbes article Big Data: 20 Mind-Boggling Facts Everyone Must Read

While there has been considerable innovation in the enterprise around mobile and digital (API platforms, digital organizations, bi-modal enterprise), we have not seen a corresponding innovation in Business Intelligence (BI) platforms. That’s not to say there isn’t innovation happening, it’s just occurring in a highly fragmented way. Matt Turck’s Big Data Landscape for Analytics illustrates the crowded landscape perfectly.

Why is This Happening?   

There is so much value in enabling enterprise agility that innovators have identified niches in big data and enterprise BI and created very specific solutions. Certainly value is being generated, but no one is claiming victory when it comes to enabling enterprise-wide agility on a broad scale.

At a platform level we are going backwards. This has been well documented by Gartner simply look at the Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms. In 2016 only 3 groups placed in the visionary quadrant, as opposed to 9 in 2015, and 10+ in both 2014 and 2013.

Where to Go From Here?

Enabling enterprise agility needs to happen, but the question is how? Recall what’s happened in digital. It was clear to some that applying the old technology to new problems (applying service-oriented architectures and concepts) wasn’t enough. A new paradigm was needed to deal with the speed and ease necessary to create and iterate on digital experiences.  

Modern API platform companies realized the cost of developing and iterating on an API had to be near zero—as it was the only way that speed and innovation could be enabled—and created a completely different technology approach. They made sure APIs were lightweight, cheap, and easy to use. And thus companies that adopted modern API platforms and married them to an enterprise 2-speed approach set themselves up to be the winners.

BI Needs Zero Cost Analytics  

Just like API platforms needed to be fast and easy, BI needs the incremental cost of a new analysis to be zero. To work at the pace of change, business needs to be able to ask a series of questions today that incorporate 10 (or 100+) individual analysis, the answer to one question spurring the next. And then next week, be able to ask a completely new set of questions. Furthermore, within the context of what they are allowed to analyze, there should be no limit to how deep or wide across the data they can go.

Data democratization is a popular idea that attempts to get at this. But data democratization focuses on data accessibility, which ignores the time and cost of creating insights from the data. The notion of zero cost analytics combines these together in a far more actionable and measurable way.

Zero cost focuses on the analytic consumer, and additional cost can be viewed in terms of dollars or time used to get the answers they need. The time and value dimensions have been massively compressed with the speed of business today, and answers need to be had literally in seconds—not weeks or months. This is the definition of Modern BI.

Think Different

This should be the mantra of BI leaders and CIOs—what they drive as their core vision. There will be plenty of naysayers who are married to traditional approaches and technology, or who have become so inside-out focused they are trying to solve for a set of discrete technology problems. Or just fundamentally don’t believe this is possible, as it hasn’t been until now.  

Some famous person somewhere said, “think different.” And that is what needs to happen right now. Trash the previous conventions, just as companies did to compete in the new digital world. There are a new breed of analytics technologies that have created a radically different technology approach to enable zero cost analytics. These technologies will form the backbone of the Modern BI Platform, and enable forward thinking companies to effectively employ the fast paced innovative and iterative business models needed to win.