What Is Business Intelligence 3.0?
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.
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.
In addition to the typical functionality of multidimensional analysis (drill-down, drill-through, roll-up, sort, group, 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.
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 120,000 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?
Gartrtner - Consumerization of BI
Panorama Software - BI 3.0
Gartner BI MQ 2011
Wikipedia - Edward Tufte
Stephen Few - Perceptual Edge
TDWI Best Practices Report – Third Quarter 2011 – Self Serve BI
Dresner's 2011 Wisdom of the Crowds BI Market Study