Business Intelligence Trends for the Second Half of 2015 and Beyond

This article will discuss what is trending in terms of Business Intelligence, specifically what you should know about for the rest of 2015 and beyond, so you can continue to make strong, data-driven decisions.

July 1 has come and gone, and we’re flying at full speed in the second half of 2015.  Conferences, summits, business deals, partnerships, and other organizational happenings fill up our days, months, and years, but we have to stay focused on so many things directly related to the success of our company.  One of those things has to be how we access, manage, and analyze our data for stronger, more informed decision-making.  In this article, I’ll discuss what you need to focus on in terms of Business Intelligence (BI) trends for software solutions and how we conduct our analytical processes.

First of all, it will likely come as no surprise to you that data is growing at an exponential rate.  You have surely seen this element of the business culture develop and are contributing to or mining, utilizing and/or analyzing your company’s heaps of data.  However, the first trend is that software offerings have to accommodate this growth in order to be marketable and logically keep up with today’s consumer demands.  And one way that you can achieve a consolidated storage process and space for your diverse types of data is a commercial data warehouse.

Data warehouses traditionally were development projects for IT professionals, typically lasting years and costing a company lots of money to work on a storage space specifically for the company.  With the project sometimes spanning years, team members might come in and out, so it becomes a tedious process.  Nowadays, commercial data warehouses are an option, pre-built and configurable, like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.  Data warehouses are a new software product category that are faster and less expensive than building a homegrown data store.  More specifically, these commercial products are becoming increasingly more important as companies have more and more data sources, often spread between on-premises and Cloud.  Commercial data warehouses allow your company to bring all of your data together for easier reporting and analysis.  Ease of use for business end users has to be paired with powerful, structured analytics.

Self-service BI is rightfully a buzzword for data management and analyses today.  However, some BI tools lack the functionality to properly prepare your raw data into meaningful intel that end users can explore, analyze and report on for themselves.  More specifically, some self-service BI tools are not equipped with business rules so your raw data is not in the form you need it to be able to make sense of the information.  The best products will include business rules, sometimes in the form of metadata like Solver’s BI360, to translate your raw data into objective, measureable information.  It is this kind of functionality that speaks to the trend of streamlining BI tools for seamless user experience.

Another element related to making your BI software experience a seamless, streamlined experience for end users is simple: data integrations between systems.  You might prefer to rely on a data warehouse or an OLAP cube for a high performance, consolidated data integration, but at other junctures, you might require a real-time analysis for more urgent deadlines.  Integrations between your accounting system, as well as other data sources, and your financial reporting, budgeting, and/or dashboard solution(s) offer you up-to-the-minute analytics that don’t first involve a replication of your data to a data warehouse or an OLAP cube.  Live integrations from your data sources will be more important to some companies over others, but they do offer you a streamlined experience for users.  And let’s talk more about the functionality and output of your software.

I’ll discuss the present and future of BI solutions in conceptual terms – and what are current buzz words in the BI world.  These four words are buzzy for professionals trying to make sense of their data to better lead their organizations because they speak to the nature of tools we are seeking to inform us.  In 2015 and beyond, analytics should embody one, and oftentimes more than one, of the following terms: prescriptive, predictive, diagnostic, and descriptive.  Some of these words seem similar, at least they did to me at first, so let me break them down for you.

Let’s start with prescriptive and predictive.  Prescriptive specifically pinpoints what actions should be taken, related to the data that you have rounded up and analyzed for this very purpose.  This is arguably the most important type of analysis, especially when you think about professionals at all levels of the organization.  It takes the analysis and spells it out for you.  In terms of predictive, this type of analytics rounds up the most likely scenarios of what can happen in the future chapters of your company’s story.  This is typically in the form of a predictive forecast.  These two descriptors go hand-in-hand for me because you are looking at what could happen and what you should do.

Also seemingly hand-in-hand: diagnostic and descriptive.  Diagnostic reviews what happened in the past, performance wise, to understand why.  This could look like an analytical dashboard or perhaps a narrative report of end-of-period financials.  As for descriptive, this is present tense analytics.  In other words, you are looking at what is happening now, based on incoming data.  In order to achieve this kind of analysis, you are going to run real-time reports or dashboards to see what is happening, as it is happening.  All of this descriptive terminology comprises a bigger picture of modern analytics for businesses and organizations of all sizes and industries.

Business Intelligence and corporate performance management analyses are important leadership resources for decision-makers at all levels of an organization.  And the technology is only going to expand in terms of how it is used in the workplace for 2015 – and definitely beyond.  As software fills out into more streamlined, comprehensive analysis for the business world in general and specific to industries, you’ll see more machine learning and machine action guiding businesses to successful futures, as well as safety in response to a fluctuating economy.  Despite all of the responsibilities and corporate noise we encounter on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis, it is important to stay informed about the future of your own corporate performance management.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and collaboration as a way to accelerate company performance management.

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