BI needs more than new technology in 2012: Gartner

Business intelligence might have been one of the hottest terms in 2012, but according to a late 2011 report from Gartner, there aren’t a whole lot of businesses getting it right. In Predicts 2012: Business Intelligence Still Subject to Nontechnical Challenges, Gartner analysts predict a continued slow adoption of cloud-based BI, conflict between centralized and de-centralized BI implementations and a lack of key metric frameworks among the chief challenges for BI in 2012.

Kurt Schlegel, an analyst at Stamford Conn.-based Gartner Inc. and one of the authors of the report, said that despite a strong investment in BI in 2011, to find success in 2012, organizations will have to find the right balance in implementation strategy. “Striking that balance between central and de-central is key,” he said. “That lack of companies that have that real a balance and control would be one answer to the questions of why we don’t see BI where it should be.”

Schlegel said that companies need not only the right data and tools for their BI, but also the right on-premise infrastructure to make BI a priority for all employees. “Most workers are busy, they’re putting out fires all day long,” he said. “We believe if we build this data warehouse and put out these reports they’re going to read it.” Schlegel said that, unless BI data is put into the context of a daily workflow, and emphasis put on involving all company units, BI data will not give companies a significant edge.

Schlegel is also concerned about the ongoing IT focus of BI. Often, the BI architect is primarily concerned with how data will be gathered and organized and not on the company culture surrounding it. “If you’re a BI leader and you’re spending most of your time on tools and technology, you’re not going to be successful,” he said. BI leaders, he said, should try to base decisions on all the criteria. “What leadership and organizational structure should we be putting in place,” he said. “People say, ‘Oh, it’s all about the technology,’ and it’s really not.”

The report also suggests that cloud-based BI will continue to see slow growth, accounting for only three per cent of BI revenue by 2013. Schlegel said this is due to the fact that not all BI data belongs in the cloud. “There’s a classic BI, which is sales data and financial data from ERP systems, that’s not going to be in the cloud,” he said. He also said that, increasingly, there are analytics that will be delivered by the cloud, particularly with data that originates on the Internet, but that it’s often not referred to as BI. “A lot of data that’s generated in the cloud will be analyzed in the cloud.”

It all sounds a little bleak for BI in 2012, but Gartner’s predictions also come with a few simple recommendations for analytics wins this year. A hybrid approach to BI strategy, with a combination of a centralized BI team and company-wide analytics use, is a good way to ensure success, Schleger said. “Multiple teams that need to report and analyze data,” he said. It’s also not just about technical fixes or the difference between cloud and on-premise anymore, he said. “Going from on premise to off premise…isn’t the message we’re going to hail at Gartner. It’s not the magic wand that’s going to make everything great.”

The full BI predictions report can be found on Gartner’s website.

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