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Democratizing Business Intelligence

BI tools that have competed on the depth of their analytical capabilities or ease of integration with data sources are competing more than ever on their usability.
Business intelligence software that's intuitive to business users is coming into its own. BI tools that have competed on the depth of their analytical capabilities or ease of integration with data sources are competing more than ever on their usability, and the drive to make business intelligence more readily understood by non-IT employees is going to gain steam.

MicroStrategy and SAS have both made major announcements on this front since the end of March. MicroStrategy debuted software that lets users access analytical tools through their Microsoft desktop applications. SAS introduced SAS 9, which features role-specific interfaces that vary depending on the ways users interact with data.

Look for the trend to grow. Software manufacturers will leverage usability as a way to differentiate themselves in a maturing market, whether that means integrating more easily with common desktop applications or being designed with end users' specific needs more closely in mind. This is good for the business intelligence industry as a whole.

Dan Vesset, research manager for analytics and data warehousing at IDC, said there's long been a relationship between BI tools and spreadsheets -- what varies from vendor to vendor is the way data is moved from the former into the latter. What's really important about the push for usability, however, is that BI gains wider acceptance when non-IT staff find it simple to use.

"The point is not that it's revolutionary," Vesset told Business Intelligence Pipeline. "The business intelligence market has reached a point of maturity where it's hard to come up with something different. But it does democratize business intelligence."