Innovation may undermine authority

According to a recent Gartner report entitled Emerging technologies to drive self-service business intelligence, much of the innovation in the BI platform market will come from emerging technologies that make it easier to build and consume analytical applications.

"Lack of both end-user and developer skills is frequently cited as a major barrier when deploying BI applications," the report says.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests no more than 20 percent of users in most organisations use reporting, ad-hoc query and online analytical processing (OLAP) tools on a regular basis. Emerging technologies such as interactive visualisation, in-memory analytics, BI integrated search, SAAS and SOA will help overcome this skills gap in both the construction and consumption of analytical applications."
26 November 2008

These technologies, says Gartner, will help reach 80 percent of users who aren't using analytical applications today, helping to grow the BI platform market and reducing the labour required by central teams to deliver BI projects.

"However," the report cautions, "they will also introduce potentially troublesome consequences by marginalising the role of IT in delivering [multiple] analytical applications. Many of these technologies have the potential to dwarf the spreadmart problem, making it easy for rogue business units - and even individual users - to create their own analytical applications that scale bigger and look better than anything IT is building today. Organisations will need to reconcile the benefits of these technologies against the potential to undermine ongoing efforts to standardise BI architecture."


The reality is that central IT has very little power to prevent independent business units (and users) from adopting these technologies. "As with spreadsheets, the answer is not prohibition," the report adds. "Instead, organisations should look to incorporate these technologies into the standard BI architecture, and promote self-service BI as a means of delivering analytical requirements more quickly and with less centralised effort."

Gartner recommends IT should incorporate these emerging technologies into the standard BI architecture when possible to prevent business units from adopting them to create "rogue" analytic applications. However, it warns, these emerging technologies will inevitably introduce some new analytic applications built independently from a central BI architecture. In these situations, the central BI team needs to clearly communicate what performance measures should be used to run the business.

The research house also recommends IT should build a governance strategy that incorporates a potential explosion in the number of analytic applications. Such a strategy should include an inventory of applications that includes clearly-defined owners and use cases. "Central BI teams that are overwhelmed with BI project requests should exploit these emerging technologies as a component of a self-service BI strategy to reduce costs and speed up delivery."

It should be noted, the report concludes, that ease of use from emerging technologies is not the only innovation in the BI space. In particular, significant benefits will come from architectural innovations such as tying BI more closely to corporate strategy and embedding analytics in the business process.

Source: Emerging technologies will drive self-service business intelligence, Kurt Schlegel, 8 February 2008, report courtesy Gartner.