How systems of insight will transform BI & analytics

Pedro Arellano, VP of Product Marketing at Looker

Jul 29, 2019

What do you think of when you hear the term “business intelligence”? I suspect most of us immediately see visions of reports and dashboards filled with bar charts, line graphs, maps, and those much maligned pie charts. Spend just a few minutes walking through a BI tradeshow and that’s exactly what you’ll see on the screens of the vendors exhibiting at the event. Much like cat pictures and the internet, the concept of reports has become inseparable from the understanding of BI.

The problem with this understanding is it limits the potential impact of data and the insights it can produce. If the purpose of BI is to produce a report or a dashboard, that means additional steps are required before that data delivers meaningful value to an organization. Someone has to take that dashboard, draw some conclusions from it, and take a corresponding action that has an impact — presumably a positive one — on the business. Without this action, insights from BI are useless.

Companies need more. To fully harness the power of information, we need BI solutions that deliver more than just reports and dashboards. Solutions that let us experience data in new ways by infusing it into everyday business functions. These “data-driven experiences” can be tailored to specific operational workflows, like automatically presenting a discount offer to a customer that’s likely to churn, automatically adjusting bids for under- or over-performing online ads, or using natural language to ask about inventory levels in Slack and ordering additional units based on the answer.

Forrester came up with a new term for these systems that help companies move beyond reports and dashboards and can close the loop between data and action. They’re called “systems of insight” and Forrester describes them as an evolution of BI and analytics that can “harness digital insights — new, actionable knowledge that can be implemented in software — and apply these insights consistently to turn data into action.”1

Looker’s modern data platform was designed to enable companies to deliver data-driven experiences that seamlessly integrate data into business workflows. In the 2019 Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms (Vendor Managed)2, Looker was recognized as a “Strong Performer” and received the highest possible score in the category of Systems of Insight.

For us, this recognition reaffirms our conviction that the future of business intelligence involves more than feeding charts and graphs to a data analyst. Our product vision (which, incidentally, also received Forrester’s highest possible score) is driven by the understanding that business professionals don’t live in a BI tool, and that a modern data & analytics solution should reach us through the applications we already use.

There is an enormous opportunity to transform the way companies use data. If we can think of data as more than just something we analyze, and instead see it as an integral and actionable component of a business process, we can help organizations become vastly more efficient, productive, and successful.

And then we’ll all have more time to look at cat pictures on the internet.

1 The Anatomy Of A System Of Insight, Forrester Research, Inc., January 5, 2018

2 The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise BI Platforms (Vendor- Managed), Q3 2019, Forrester Research, Inc., July 29, 2019

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