I’ve been spending time recently looking ahead to 2013 and thinking about the new technologies and trends we can expect to see more of next year. Business intelligence (BI) has come a long way over the last several decades, transforming from a back office process to a technology utilized by every enterprise department. These sophisticated uses—such as relying upon BI tools to predict inventory before the holiday shopping season, or using the technology to analyze consumer sentiment before a significant product launch—are really the future of our industry, and I’m excited to play a part in the deployment. With that in mind, here’s a look at the top six trends I predict for 2013:
1. Giving BI a Voice
The technology available today is actually ahead of current industry demand in some ways. For example, the plethora of new smartphones, tablets and PCs available in today’s market have the ability to take and receive voice instruction, as illustrated by the Apple Siri program, and BI could easily be incorporated into that conversation. For example, let’s say I ask, “Who was the sales person who sold the most blue widgets last month?” I could get back a voice response, “John Doe in Cincinatti.” And better yet, I could also receive a short message that includes John Doe’s picture and biography. The only difference between this query and all of the other Siri queries is that BI gets its information from business records. Translating the voice query to an SQL request is the only task remaining, and lots of work has been done in this area already. So, I predict that sometime in 2013 we will see voice added to the BI stack of options.
2. Predictive Analytics
Maybe it’s due to the popularity of “Moneyball,” but predictive analytics is hot, and will only get hotter in the coming year. There are a variety of enterprise functions benefitting from the technology, including sales and marketing. The popularity of social media, the proliferation of mobile, and other industry trends are giving rise to new marketing channels for companies to communicate with current and potential customers. These multichannel marketing strategies are resulting in a wealth of data—both structured and unstructured—that, when properly analyzed, can be used to better target existing customers, reach new markets and streamline efforts. In 2013, I expect we’ll see more companies mining their multichannel marketing data to remain competitive and better predict who their customers are, the products or services that they want, their online and offline actions, and what they need to continue being a customer.
3. Sentiment Analysis
In today’s socially networked world, it’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to learn about a product or service—and begin to form an opinion about it—via a social site or blog. In fact, a recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that more than 60 percent of a typical purchasing decision now happens before the buyer ever interacts with the supplier. As such, it’s incredibly important that organizations be able to discover what people are saying about their product, service, marketing initiative and any other area that reflects upon their brand, so that they’re better able to respond to these conversations in real time. Many BI providers have incorporated sentiment analysis capabilities into their solution sets, making it relatively easy for organizations to mine for this information as part of their existing analysis activities, which is why I believe we’ll see continued adoption in the year ahead.
4. Big Data
Predicting that Big Data will be a focus for 2013 may seem a bit obvious, as this has been a key area of growth for our industry for several years. However, because so many other emerging trends are reliant upon the science of Big Data, I think we’ll see significant enhancements to this area in the coming year. Those enhancements will come in the form of improved Big Data management tools, with one such tool being data stores. Although many BI vendors currently offer their own embedded data stores, and these solutions have offered some short-term relief, many are either limited in scalability or require huge proprietary hardware appliances to support Big Data. As we move into a world where big data management is increasingly important, we’ll see that begin to change.
5. Mobile BI
There are two aspects of the mobile BI revolution: empowering employees to conduct real-time analysis regardless of their physical location, and mining smartphone and tablet data to develop a more holistic understanding of the customer, the market, the workforce, etc. As these both become more prevalent, there will also be an increased demand for data quality and data integration tools to ensure that information is properly cleansed and combined for mobile analysis.
In the same vein as mobile BI, I also expect that we’ll see the continued consumerization of BI in the sense that more organizations will use BI tools to provide employees, customers and partners with applications that enable self-guided exploration of the information that matters to them most. Following this trend, we can expect to see something akin to a “BI app store” to control and curate apps by role, which will allow content to be distributed accordingly. All of these trends will eventually revolutionize how information is distributed throughout the enterprise.
6. Embedded BI
To harness the above trends and other benefits of BI without investing in significant new infrastructure, more and more organizations are embedding BI capabilities into their existing SaaS solutions. I think the industry as a whole will see more of this trend as we head into 2013. Buying BI capabilities rather than building the technology in-house gives companies a lower total cost of ownership and quicker time to value; benefits I expect will continue to be in high demand throughout next year.
I’ve really just scratched the surface of these trends, and no doubt left out a few areas that will have a significant impact on the BI landscape in 2013. As such, I’d love to hear what you think about the above and any additional areas you expect to play a big part in the year ahead.
Gerry D. Cohen is president and CEO of Information Builders, a leader in business intelligence (BI) and analytics, information integrity, and integration solutions. He co-founded Information Builders in 1975 with the mission to develop a software product that would allow non-programmers to create their own information systems. Building on this foundation for the past 37 years, Information Builders’ solutions have been used to construct BI systems for thousands of leading companies, universities, and government agencies around the world.
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