BI Applications Trending Toward Ease of Use and Mobility

Gartner’s Business Intelligence Summit 2011 kicked off on Monday in Los Angeles. It is the sister conference to one held in the beginning of the year in London. While the keynote speakers and participating companies vary, the general themes running through both conferences are the same.

One is that with every passing year, business intelligence technology and applications get ever more consumerized for the business-end user.

“The drive towards BI has become much less IT-driven. That is a trend that is not changing,” Jeff Boehm, vice president of global product marketing for QlikTech, told CRM Buyer. “It is similar to what we saw with CRM.”

This push to provide easy-to-use tools for the end-user can be seen in Quiterian’s Dynamic Data Web 3.0, timed to become public at the conference.

Enhancements to the self-service and agile BI platform include new advanced and predictive analysis techniques, such as validation tests and new data pre-processing methods.

“Our application allows a business end user to do visualization of data without having to go the extremes necessary with traditional BI,” Al Saavedra, VP of sales for Quiterian, told CRM Buyer. “It is the idea that a non-technical user can pull a result out of a BI application in hours, not days — and certainly not weeks or months.”

The Mobile User

Another industry trend has emerged recently, which dovetails with the drive for user-friendliness — the expectation that this technology is adaptable to the mobile environment.

Tablets, in particular, “have breathed new life into BI,” Boehm said.

Gartner was unable to make its BI analysts available to CRM Buyer for this story, citing their speaking and client engagements at the conference. However, it has emphasized both user-friendliness and mobile-functionality trends in previous reports.

For example, Gartner has predicted that by 2013, 33 percent of BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices.

The first wave of this technology, already hitting the market, will be the porting of existing reports and dashboards to mobile devices, the firm said. Next year, though, vendors will start developing mobile analytics applications for specific tasks, Gartner has predicted.

Along those lines is Enterprise Signal’s SurfBI Mobile 3.0, which is making its debut at the summit. The latest version offers support for gestures on both iOS and Android, and sliced pie chart support for intuitive modeling using natural gestures. Also new are an enhanced disconnected mode and intelligent caching algorithms.

Strategy Companion, for its part, released Analyzer Mobile, which can deploy both new and existing Analyzer reports and dashboards to multiple mobile devices.

A third app to take a bow at the conference is LogiXML’s Logi Mobile. This app touches on both the usability and mobile trend by aiming to provide the necessary toolsets to companies to design mobile BI applications without specialized developing skills.

Unstructured Content

One common thread running through all the announcements, said Dave Caruso, vice president of enterprise applications at Endeca, is that vendors are pushing BI boundaries further than they have in the past.

“What we are seeing today goes beyond the usual evolutionary steps,” he told CRM Buyer. “Some of these apps are offering radical improvements in functionality.”

For example, the notion of bringing unstructured content, such as data from Twitter or Facebook, into the decision-making process is becoming part of the feature landscape.

“There is also a growing trend of folks looking at underlying tech areas — in-memory processing, for instance — that helps speed up access to data and makes it available in high-visual environments.”

Indeed, Gartner has noted the same, predicting earlier this year that by 2014, 30 percent of analytics applications will use in-memory functions to add scale and computational speed.

Increasingly, organizations consider both columnar data repositories and in-memory online analytical processing (OLAP) that is faster and easier to architect essential qualities in any BI system they may be considering.

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