The business intelligence (BI) landscape is quite different than when I began my career in the late ’90s. That was the age of centralized, IT-led projects, enterprise data warehouses, and on-premises deployments. Today we see decentralized, business-oriented environments, vast data lakes (and a number of “data swamps”), and a multitude of cloud-based solutions.
This continuous evolution keeps my line of work fun and interesting. But it’s easy to lose perspective of just how much the BI and analytics industry has changed. The Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study, published last week by Dresner Advisory Services, is a helpful guide to track the evolution of the BI space.
In this year’s edition of the study, Dresner identifies a number of unmistakable trends that reaffirm a shift in the way we’re used to thinking about BI.
For example, the report shows that Executive Management and Operations are the leading functions driving BI within an organization. At the same time, the data makes it clear that the influence of the IT organization has steadily declined over the past six years.
In my opinion, this development has positive and negative implications. Empowering the business functions to work with data without support from IT experts has long been a goal of BI. But diminishing the role of IT results in lack of standards and safeguards that lead to poorly managed and insufficiently governed environments, undermining the decision making process.
On the topic of governance, Dresner’s research finds that “success with BI correlates directly and powerfully to an organization’s state of data. Organizations that view data as ‘truth’ are more than 80 percent likely to be ‘successful’.”
The Wisdom of Crowds study identifies another encouraging trend. The audience for BI is expanding. According to the study, executives and middle managers remain the most likely targeted users of BI. However, in 2018 they observed “a significant increase in the targeting of customers, individual contributors, and to a lesser extent, line managers.”
In fact, Dresner noticed that “the least successful BI organizations take executive focus to the extreme”, and that successful organizations are more likely to put a high emphasis on individual contributors.
This is an important development that indicates that the value of BI is transcending the boardroom, reaching people who are not executives, but whose jobs can be significantly enhanced with data.
This also means that we need to reassess how we serve people who need data. Dashboards are ideal for executive management, but may not be as useful for the retail store associate, or the food delivery driver, or the warehouse manager. The evolution of BI means recognizing that many people don’t live in reports and dashboards.
This year’s Wisdom of Crowds report found a strong correlation between success with BI and an organization’s ability to take action on insights. According to Dresner, “more than 70 percent of organizations with closed-loop processes are completely successful all or some of the time.”
This finding further supports the idea that we must go beyond reports and dashboards. Success with BI now involves supporting closed-loop processes that seamlessly integrate with business workflows, reaching people in the applications they use every day.
This kind of shift in culture requires committed leadership. The Dresner report found that “fewer than 15 percent of respondent organizations have a chief data officer and only about 10 percent have a chief analytics officer”, but it also found that organizations with a CDO or CAO fare better than those without, across all objectives/achievements evaluated.
It’s clear that there is an important opportunity for data leaders within organizations to take an enormously influential role in defining and driving data strategy. Data is an asset and should be treated as such. In time, I expect we’ll see the Chief Data/Analytics Officer role become as prominent and necessary as the Chief Financial Officer.
Lastly, no market study would be complete without vendor evaluations. In this year’s report, Looker was once again ranked as an overall leader in Dresner’s Customer Experience and Vendor Credibility models. According to Dresner, Looker “scores significantly above the overall sample for virtually all measures and is best in class for sales business practices, technical support professionalism, and responsiveness. It maintains a perfect recommend score.”
The evolution of business intelligence continues its swift pace. It’s thrilling to think about the possibilities. At Looker, we are proud to lead this evolution and are delighted to be recognized in the Wisdom of Crowds BI Market Study. I invite you to download a copy of the study and to contact us to learn more about Looker and how we can help your organization achieve success with BI.