BI Tools Let Users Tap Into Big Data - InformationWeek

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Sean McGrath
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BI Tools Let Users Tap Into Big Data

Business intelligence tools put more power in the hands of end users, but IT must still manage data integrity and security.

Dan Dickinson will be addressing the Digital Disruption of Business Intelligence at Interop London in June.

Interop London will take place June 16 - 18 at ExCeL London.

Find out more and register here.

Interop London

For decades, businesses have turned to their data to seek insight.

In the past, the process took weeks or even months and relied on a handful of data analysts who compiled static reports for executives and business users. And, for decades, this worked just fine.

However, in today's digital world, this approach to Business Intelligence (BI) can't keep pace with the need for timely, data-driven insights.

The sheer quantity of data being collected and the desire from business users for attractive, rapid information delivery overwhelms traditional systems.

In addition to the quantity of data and speed of analysis, another challenge is the variety of data types. Besides the data that fills relational databases, businesses must pore through semi-structured and unstructured information such as e-mail, video, social media feeds, and so on.

These problems can all be traced back to the 'three Vs' of big data: Volume, Variety and Velocity; and these three Vs have ushered in a new era of business intelligence.

The Back End

It's hard to talk about Big Data/BI and not mention Apache Hadoop. This open-source software framework, originally developed by Yahoo, has revolutionized data warehousing by moving away from the notion of a centralized database system and toward batch processing data across different servers.

This parallel form of data processing is no longer unique to Hadoop, but it has remolded the paradigm, making BI massively scalable.

The Front End

A range of new tools are surfacing to address the increasingly time-sensitive nature of insight-driven decision making. This moves the burden of reporting away from the IT department and gives the power directly to the business users who need it.

"The digital age has opened up a proliferation of Shadow IT environments," said Dan Dickinson, Business Intelligence & IS Demand Manager of Imperial Tobacco.

"Enterprise IS departments must learn how to harness the change and innovation these IT pop-ups deliver whilst maintaining the data integrity and security more traditional IS processes offer."

Some vendors are calling these tools self-service BI, while others prefer to call them visualization-based data discovery tools, or a variation on these two themes.

Regardless of the name, these tools offer straightforward, intuitive GUIs, allowing business users to interrogate data from disparate sources and display the results visually.

"The ability to spin up a cloud instance and start working with rapid data modeling that employs user-friendly end tools has massively disrupted the control of data, taking this away from IT and giving it back to the user," Dickenson noted.

While the benefits of these tools are impossible to ignore, it would be foolish to assume there aren’t concerns. Data quality, misinterpretation, and rogue data are genuine risks that must be considered by both vendor and business.

But they are not insurmountable and an increasing number of vendors are taking the necessary steps to ensure that their solutions offer data integrity. This gives IT a degree of centralized control, while giving business users the ability to access data in new and exciting ways.

Interop London logo (small)To learn more about how digital is disrupting traditional reporting and analysis of business intelligence, join Dan Dickinson at Interop London in June. Find out more here.

Sean McGrath is a freelance IT writer, researcher, and journalist. He has written for PC Pro, the BBC, and TechWeekEurope, and has produced content for a range of private organizations. Although he holds a first class degree in investigative journalism, his dreams of being a ... View Full Bio

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