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5 ways BI will change in the next 5 years

EducationSummary: As we generate more data than ever before, Business Intelligence is becoming even more important. But–driven by recent trends–Business Intelligence is undergoing some major changes. Learn why, and what changes we can expect in the near future.

Business Intelligence (BI) has grown dramatically over the past few years. We’ve seen self-service BI tools gain traction in the enterprise. We’ve seen data volumes grow by leaps and bounds. We’ve seen mobile BI become a reality.

The big question: What is your business doing about it? Some businesses treat BI like a passing trend. They’re waiting around to see if it sticks.

If this sounds like your business, I have some bad news: Business Intelligence isn’t just a passing trend…and it’s about change even more. Those who wait around will find themselves playing catch-up in the very near future.

Why? Over the next 5 years, it will grow by leaps and bounds. Smart businesses recognize this opportunity and jump on board now.

How is BI changing? Today, let’s explore a few ways that BI will change in the coming years.

1. BI becomes pervasive

In the past, Business Intelligence was an IT-specific function. Users requested reports from IT, and waited around until they were delivered.

Now, that’s changed for many businesses. With the rise of self-service tools, BI has turned into a business function. End users can create reports and analyze data on their own.

That being said, we’re still in the early stages of pervasive BI. While it is spreading across the business, we haven’t yet seen its full potential. Very few businesses truly use BI across their entire organization. As self-service tools advance and BI continues to grow, we will see that change. We will see BI start redefining businesses.

“While the last 5 years have brought Business Intelligence to the world of business, my belief is that in the next 5 years BI will redefine business,” says Jeremy Levi, Director of Marketing, “There will be tools created so that every business, from pizza joints to accounting firms, from souvenir shops to department stores, business intelligence will be the way we make every decision.”

“It will be like web development; whereas 5-10 years ago web development had to be done by a professional and now there are great out of the box solutions for websites such as wix, shopify etc, the same will ring true with BI software. It will be so easy to use and the results will be so good, people will run their whole operation off of these tools.”

2. IoT delivers an avalanche of data

photo credit: Snapographic_com via pixabay cc
photo credit: Snapographic_com via pixabay cc

We’ve seen a data explosion over the past few years. We have access to more data from more sources than ever before. In fact, businesses have more data than they even realize.

However, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is just starting to pick up steam and shows no signs of slowing down. Gartner estimates there will be 20.8 Billion connected things by 2020. Every one of those things generates data.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine that you’re receiving data from every aspect of your business. Your office building, delivery trucks, hardware, and more–all sending a steady stream of information.

In the next 5 years, this will become a reality. As a result, your BI efforts must adapt to include data from more sources than ever before.

“I expect the number of data sets, both internal and external, to grow within BI software packages,” says Murray Ferguson, Director of Pro-Sapien Software. “Big data is becoming more prevalent, as will the amount of sets of data and ability to merge and manipulate that data.”

3. Automation becomes table stakes

Over the past few years, BI has made great strides in automation. However, it’s still one of the biggest barriers to successful BI efforts. Far too many organizations still rely on manual processes in their BI strategy.

For instance, most data is not formatted correctly for use with a BI tool. To make matters worse, data typically exists in multiple systems/applications within a business…and it’s formatted differently in each one.

The problem is, many businesses falsely assume they can just put a BI tool on top of their existing systems, and start building reports. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. As mentioned in this article, with data living in different places (and formatted in different ways), you need a data warehouse along with an ETL tool.

However, many businesses still don’t have an automated way to deal with this issue. They still address it manually. They consolidate that data in Excel, wasting hours of time.

In the near future, we’ll have even more data sources. BI will play an even greater role in the success of a business. We’ll need to make sense of that data faster than ever. Businesses can no longer afford to rely on manual processes in their BI efforts. From data gathering to formatting (and everything in between), automation will become table stakes.

“As the world continues to globalize, business competition will only get more intense,” says Charlie Leeds, Product Manager at Powerlinx. “Companies will have to grapple with massive amounts of data coming in about customers, competitors, partners and more. To meet this challenge, businesses will need to implement big data analytics tools to rapidly analyze the data and present actionable conclusions and suggestions.”

4. Prescriptive analytics becomes mainstream

photo credit: nvokicka via pixabay cc
photo credit: nvokicka via pixabay cc

Business Intelligence falls into three categories: Descriptive analytics, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics.

Descriptive analytics make up the vast majority of current BI. It tells you what happened in the past. It helps you understand data over the last day/week/month/year, and make decisions based on that information.

Predictive analytics is the next step up in analytics. It analyzes past data and predicts future outcomes based on that information.

Prescriptive analytics takes it one step further. It not only predicts future outcomes, it makes recommendations based on that prediction.

Right now, we’re seeing predictive analytics pick up steam. More and more tools are emerging that help you understand the most likely outcomes based on past results. Over the next few years, we can expect this to take a step further, into the prescriptive realm.

“The ability to see into the future is no longer limited to witchcraft and wizardry,” says Joe Edwards, Territory Marketing Manager at Every Angle Global. “The actionable intelligence contained within prescriptive tools allow business professionals to shape and control the future; similar to the way a fortune-teller peers into a crystal ball.. Just with a few less candles.

As shown by Gartner, the emergence of prescriptive analytics goes beyond descriptive and predictive models by recommending one or more courses of action and then showing the likely outcome of each decision. Soon it will no longer be good enough to tell a user that something has gone wrong, the expectation will be that business users are given enough time to interject and resolve the issue before it materializes.”

5. BI gets smarter

Traditionally, BI has revolved around data in a structured format–typically in a database. SQL queries run against that data and deliver results.

However, over the past few years, we’ve seen great advancements in a couple of areas: Machine learning and unstructured search capabilities.

With machine learning, a program not only reads your query, it understands context and what you’re really looking for. The best example of this is found in search engines. For instance, Google understands the context of your search term, and delivers the appropriate results.

With unstructured search, a program can search across a large variety of data formats and deliver quick results. Open source projects like Apache Solr already offer these advanced search capabilities to any business. It lets users index and search large volumes of structured and unstructured data, and quickly find results.

Just imagine how much power these capabilities would add to your BI deployment. In the near future, we’ll see these search enhancements come to BI–creating more intelligent and powerful BI software.

“The biggest trend and movement within BI in my opinion will be that it becomes far easier to use for the average person,” says Ferguson. “The ability to ask questions (both spoken and typed) to find the desired results, as opposed to more technical SQL requests is also coming forward – anyone can run reports and pull data as opposed to someone skilled in running SQL queries. For example, the ability to type/speak “show me all accidents in Europe” or “show all open tickets” will display the results, and the data can be manipulated or disseminated accordingly. In short, BI will become more understanding to pure language.


While the list could certainly be longer, these are just 5 ways BI will change in the next 5 years. Would you add anything to this list? If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.