So many vendors are touting cloud as a way to reduce hardware costs and provide elasticity during peak computing times. For SMBs, in particular, cloud BI provides the promise of easier implementation, without the worry of having to first establish a BI infrastructure. To be sure, cloud computing in general has gained acceptance with certain functional areas. Think payroll or HR or CRM. But in BI, it's a different story. Customers are still anxious about letting go of their data. Historically, there have been trade-offs in functionality with cloud-based BI solutions. Vendors that allow customers to leave data on premise while surfacing dashboards and reports in the cloud, an approach taken by Birst, might be striking the right balance.
We also saw MicroStrategy enter the cloud arena in 2011. MicroSoft Azure has gained momentum as a cloud platform, and it includes BI capabilities as well as a marketplace of third-party data. SAP announced stepped up initiatives in this area, partnering with Google and now embedding Hand in the SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand service. YellowFin, a start up in Australia, touts a mutlitenant architecture ideal for SaaS OEM vendors. Domo (previously known as Corda) is retrenching to be more SaaS focused. Other SaaS vendors such as PivotLink and Indicee continue to gain customers.
[ Want more on business intelligence and analytics? Read our 2012 BI and Information Management Trends report. ]
So in 2012, the discussion will shift from "cloud versus on-premise" to "what to put in the cloud." BI products that are mutlitenant will have a leg up for enterprise customers who want a combination of approaches and for SMB customers who want to go with a cloud solution.
Social, Collaborative BI
Social media is the new software and marketing battle ground. Google launched Google+ as an alternative to Facebook, hitting 50 million users within three months. Facebook has exceeded 800 million users, and even the Republican Presidential debates are now intertwined with Facebook. So what does this have to do with BI? As a way of working, user-driven content without IT as the gatekeeper is increasingly assumed.
Collaboration capabilities continue to cross into BI, but ahead of customer demand. Lyzasoft, one of the specialty vendors in the space, had a major new product release in 2011 but is still trying to find its footing. Meanwhile, QlikTech, TIBCO Spotfire, and Panorama released new versions with collaborative capabilities. Information Builders added support for SalesForce Chatter and SAP StreamWork.
So vendors are innovating, but are customers adopting? There is no doubt that Microsoft SharePoint 2010 has been a successful portal product. But try to find customers who are using the collaborative capabilities around BI and decision making (if you are out there, please contact me or post a comment here). Ditto for Cognos 10 and the Lotus Connect integration as well as OBIEE Web Center.
In 2012, a few early adopters will be the ones to reap the benefits of collaborative BI, both within corporate boundaries and beyond. Already there have been some compelling case studies particularly in healthcare, on how collaboration has saved companies millions, while also improving care. In terms of product highlights, look for SAP Streamwork and SAP BusinessObjects to be better integrated in their feature pack 3 release, due in the first half of 2012.
BI Beyond Technology
Vendors can innovate, but of course it takes more than software for BI to be successful. Even with the economy limping to recovery, BI talent is scarce. As pent-up demand for BI spending is released, expect this problem to be exacerbated. Companies would be wise to invest in developing BI expertise internally, as it will be hard to recruit talent. Universities need to continue to expand their programs for creating data analysts.
While the BI market is poised for a banner year in 2012, it's the European economy and the instability in the Middle East that might disrupt more than just BI.
So how did we do in predicting last year's BI themes ? Dashboards did indeed become mainstream, but not yet visual discovery tools. The rest of my predictions seem to have been on the money, although big data and cloud were more high profile than I predicted. If only my adhearance to New Year's was as good! Yoga once a month was more like once a quarter. And after three years of little success with the same resolution, I have now abandoned even trying to curse less, which my children, now teenagers, think is so funny.
Happy New Year.
Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard , an independent analyst firm that advises companies on BI tool strategies and offers in-depth business intelligence product reviews.