What Is Business Intelligence 3.0?

By Bill Cabiro
Interactive Visual Analytics represents what Gartner Research calls the consumerization of Business Intelligence. It’s a good example of a disruptive innovation or, as Qliktech’s Donald Farmer calls it, a market changer.

According to Tableau Software “visual analysis is not a graphical depiction of data. Virtually any software application can produce a chart, gauge or dashboard. Visual analytics offers something much more profound. Visual analytics is the process of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces”

This new generation of front end BI tools is so intuitive to the user that little or no training is necessary. This is a great feature since, according to Gartner, BI users do not want to read manuals. They demand intuitive BI interfaces, in line with the internet experience they are accustomed to, like Google searches or iPhone apps.
The current low Bi utilization rate of about 5% does not provide many companies an acceptable return on their Business Intelligence investment.  The new user-friendly/ intuitive BI tools will help companies exploit the treasure of business trends and patterns hidden in their oceans of data by increasing the number of employees that participate in the data discovery process. The technology enables casual users to transition into power-users and power-users into app. developers in a matter of weeks.

Depending on the vendor, the new software class is known by different names: Data Discovery, Advanced Visualization, Visual Analytics, Business Discovery, Self Serve Business Intelligence or what Forrester Research’s James Kobielus calls BI 3.0.

Advanced data visualization is based on the fact that 70% of the human sensory receptors are dedicated to vision while the other four senses share the remaining 30%. In addition, our brains are much more effective recognizing shapes trends and patterns than analyzing spreadsheets or tables full of numbers. Visual data analysis principles are based on the work of Edward Tufte and Stephen Few.
There are close to a dozen applications that fall into this category from companies around the globe. The leading ones are growing their acceptance at a very fast rate. Five of them have made it to Gartner Research's 2011 Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant Report and I think they’re going to stay there for the foreseeable future.

Gartner points out an interesting fact: business users are purchasing these applications either with or without IT consent. Similarly, the recent global survey “2011 Wisdom of the Crowds” by Dresner Advisory Services reveals that 50% of self serve BI purchasing decisions take place in the business areas and not in IT.

In addition to the typical functionality of multidimensional analysis (drill-down, drill-through, roll-up, sort, group and filter and calculation) some tools offer “what-if” scenario analysis, data animation and mobile capability.

A great feature of this new generation of BI software is its data blending functionality. The applications allow connecting simultaneously to disparate types of data bases or tables, whether in a data warehouse, data-marts, spreadsheets, text files, Access tables and, in some cases OLAP cubes and even data in websites.

The results are instant since the process takes place efficiently in-memory. Additionally the visual interface, when used proficiently, permits to digest huge amounts of information and visualize trends and patterns in seconds. This process enables what many call “analysis at the speed of thought”. Meaning that the answers to business questions can be found fast enough not interrupting the “train of thought” that leads to the next layer of questions, seeking to find the root cause of issues or opportunities.

Self-serve BI does not mean “IT Free” as a strong IT-Business partnership is always helpful to ensure data quality through proper governance and ensure the proverbial single version of the truth.  Self serve refers to the user’s ability to perform data exploration and discovery without having to request IT to create specific data marts, build OLAP cubes or predefined reports, as this would delay the analysis process.

Visual Analytics packages are not replacing traditional BI in large organizations but complementing them. They provide fast analytical capabilities to more people that need to gain a competitive edge in the current fast changing market dynamics.

For small and medium size companies that haven’t yet invested in BI, self-serve/ Visual Data Discovery can be a fast and cost effective solution.

This new generation of BI software takes analytics to a whole new level. That's the reason for the triple digit growth rate some of these tools have experienced during last year.
It only takes a few minutes to download the free versions most vendors offer for testing purposes. This is something I’ve done and changed my views about the future of BI. Now I say “visualizing is believing”.
The video illustrates visualization techniques that make 100,000 data-points tell a compelling story that anybody can easily understand.  

If you have used or tested Visual Analytics, please share your opinion - If not, are you planning to test any of the products? - Why?


TDWI Best Practices Report – Third Quarter 2011 – Self Serve BI 




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  • 8/10/2011 6:30 AM Tone' Shelby wrote:
    Excellent Research and Article Bill! I have posted it on by Blog above for you too. You explain it and excite with it better than anyone I've seen yet!
    Reply to this
    1. 10/15/2011 4:57 PM Bill Cabiro wrote:
      Tone, thanks for the kind words.

      Regards, Bill

      Reply to this
  • 8/20/2011 1:07 PM Angel wrote:
    Great article. Starting to get into Tableau. This article describes exactly why I'm starting to evaluate other BI tools besides SQL Server and Excel.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/20/2011 1:35 PM Bill Cabiro wrote:
      Angel, Thanks for the comment.  I agree with you ,Visual Analytics tools like Tableau are the key to increase the extremely low current BI utilization rate.  Regards, Bill

      Reply to this
  • 9/30/2011 8:07 PM Bill French wrote:

    I enjoyed your article, but the low utilization reference seems misleading. A 5% utilization rate suggests that only 5 in 100 people that should use BI, actually are using BI.

    Presenting the data like this is misleading because it assumes 100% of all people in an organization should use BI to do their jobs better. More accurately, it's possible that a 5% utilization rate could be quite high, but we don't really know because we don't have a complete picture.

    I enjoyed your article because it underscores and validates a paper I recently wrote - Apps, The Second Wave of IT Consumerization.
    Reply to this
    1. 10/3/2011 10:41 AM Bill Cabiro wrote:


      Thanks for the comment.  You have a very good point by which different industries or companies may have different needs regarding Analytics effective utilization rate.

      Thinking along the lines with Tom Davenport’s Competing on Analytics, it’s undeniable that the greater the number of analytically savvy folks in an organization, the higher its efficiency and effectiveness as Analytics brings vision, transparency, accountability and supports data driven decision making.

      Analytics makes obvious the understanding of what constrains the achievement of business objectives and how to overcome issues; all without wasting time brainstorming problems and solutions based on managers’ intuition.

      The greater the number of employees that understand the market-business-profit reality, the better the alignment between strategic objectives with tactical execution and operational actions.

      In my experience, 5% utilization is generally not enough.  Depending on the industry it could be between 15% and 50% or greater for a company to become a true Analytic Competitor.

      A stage-five Analytic Competitor uses data analysis as a competitive advantage to understand market trends and dynamics better than the competition in order to gain market share and enjoy sustainable profitable growth.

      Regards, Bill

      Reply to this
  • 10/30/2011 4:02 AM Martin Rennhackkamp wrote:
    Bill, I would like to add the point to this post that as organisations are embracing advanced analytics more, the more complex are the insights that are being generated. The significances of segmentation scores, propensities to churn, lifetime values, and it gets more complex as it goes on, are not that easy to understand by inspection of the values, so, so much more do we need visualisation to give meaning to these numbers. I personally like presentations where they use story boards to give even more meaning to these figures for the users.

    I like your quote “visualizing is believing” - it is really apt! But of course you have to use the appropriate paradigm to represent the meaning of the figures correctly. (I'm quite excited about this field - I'm going on a visualisation course by Stephen Few in a few weeks time!) I think that is a real important growth area in the application, or rather presentation of BI deliverables in the future.
    Reply to this
    1. 10/30/2011 11:53 AM Bill Cabiro wrote:
      Martin, thanks for your comment.  I fully agree.  Predictive Analytics (Advanced Computational Statistics) is complex and can benefit from advanced data visualization techniques as much as BI has.  Good luck with Stephen Few course.

      Regards, Bill

      Reply to this
  • 2/22/2012 3:16 PM Luciano wrote:
    First of all thank you for this text! It's simply enlightening and explains the essence of this new generation of Bi tools. I'm excited to starting work with Qlikview and Yellowfin. Soon I intend to share my experience with all here. I'm subscribing to this blog right now!
    Reply to this
    1. 2/22/2012 4:23 PM Bill Cabiro wrote:
      Luciano,  Thanks for the comment.  This new class of BI is very helpful to the users only if it's deployed strategically in a way they can use it to grow the business.

      Regards, Bill

      Reply to this
  • 2/28/2012 8:31 AM Johannes Hamman wrote:
    I love Hans Rosling's visualisation, since the first time I saw it more than 5 years ago. And therein lies the problem. As great as visualisation is as a tool, since the first hand print on a cave wall, most companies just don't have enough people who care that much about data. They don't want to spend the hard work to learn the data, and then don't have the production team to convert one graph into the high impact video like Hans with the story behind the data. There is no shortcut to great visualisation, just like there is no such thing as a fix all ERP system. The issue is not the tool but operator and the maturity of the environment (company).
    Until people care enough, until attitudes change, until processes improved, no system will overcome the human element. It's all about maturity and what is sufficient to make profit.
    There is only three things that could challenge this: removing the human element (what a thought), competitors taking more profits due to better BI (the Joneses), more people who care passionately about data like Hans (initiative, innovation and leadership).
    I hope in my lifetime I will see it.
    Reply to this
  • 10/19/2012 6:03 AM Soulla Stylianou wrote:
    I enjoyed reading this article. With regards to data visualisation tools available that perhaps take the “visualizing is believing” you might like to take a look at our latest product Datascape which is a 3D data visualisation tool.

    Datascape lets you plot, visualise and filter tens to even hundreds of thousands of data points with complete flexibility about how you map, move and interrogate your data. Using Datascape, users can visualise and interact with any kind of data including geo-located and real-time data. Data can be imported from almost any source including spreadsheets and databases or even taken from live feeds. Using an immersive 3D visual analytic tool such as Datascape helps you to investigate and understand your information in a whole new way – spotting anomalies, link,behaviours, relationships and patterns that haven’t been obvious before.

    Other features include:
    - Assign data fields to over 9 plottable features for every data point
    -Plot network graphs, time-lines and other non-geographic displays
    -Plot up to 65,000 data points (although we have successfully plotted over 250,000 entities)
    -Animate data over time (or any other parameter) and plot data in time as well as space
    -Click-through to web pages or other systems
    -Multi-User (for collaboration and distance learning)

    Whatever the data subject matter - whether its maths, geography, cyber security and intelligence, financial, scientific, technical health, pharma, twitter etc - Datascape lets you explore and discover data in exciting new ways.

    As your article suggests we too offer a free version of the software to download and trial - (limited to 6000 data entities). Go to http://bit.ly/DscapeFree

    We've also written a white paper on Immersive Visual Analytics which is free to download - http://bit.ly/VisAnWP

    And finally we've announced a prize competition for anyone to enter using the free community version of Datascape.

    We are always running free webinars and from our website are links to videos and tutorials.
    Reply to this
  • 5/1/2013 3:39 PM Martin Rennhackkamp wrote:
    Bill, I retread this post now, triggered by the Spotfire vs Qlikview debate on LinkedIn... This is a classic piece that hasn't aged one bit!
    Reply to this
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