Business Intelligence is corporate fat. Then again, there is fat and there is fat.
Years ago, my son wanted me to teach him how to grill, or as northerners call it – barbecue. So, we started with a trip to the butcher. I showed him two cuts of meat. One was all muscle, not a bit of fat. The other was a nicely marbled piece of meat. Marbling, found in high-quality cuts of beef, is the fat between muscle fibers. Raised in a culture where fat is evil, he naturally assumed that the less fat the better the cut. So, we bought both to conduct a bit of an experiment. The lean cut was little chewy without much flavor. The marbled cut, however, was so tender we almost didn’t need a knife. The wonderful beefy savoriness of it exploded with the first bite. When we pulled it off the grill, you really couldn’t see the marbling in the meat. I explained to my son that it had cooked into the meat making it tender and tasteful. This is exactly what business intelligence is today. Let me explain…
In a previous post, Is Business Intelligence a Dodo Bird, I had described the evolution of business intelligence (BI) to date. I explained how BI evolved from custom built data warehouses to prebuilt systems incorporated into applications. Although these integrated BI implementations provided single sign-on and ease of navigation to dashboards and reports, it is as if the systems were duct-taped together. They required users to navigate to another screen, a different place, for information. This breaks the workflow and concentration of the user, arresting momentum.
Surprisingly, the challenge is not on the BI side, but on the applications side. The natural next step in applications is Embedded Business Intelligence. The embedding of business intelligence into the application drives the level of integration to a point where BI permeates the application, meaning that the visualizations and interactive reporting are at the atomic level. Bear in mind the old adage says the benefit of BI is better decision making. If we think about it, this means BI is not a dashboard, or report, or some software feature. BI is a process, a process of developing understanding. The more we integrate this functionality into the greater business processes the greater the benefits BI delivers to the organization. As the user moves through his or her workflow BI becomes an integral aspect of their tasks.
As I think of the various generations of applications, embedded BI is just another step. Years ago, a graphical user interface, GUI, was a new feature. Today it is simply table stakes, if you pardon the cliché. Then it was client/server which evolved into web enablement. Now it is the cloud. Embedded BI will eventually be just another feature of applications. As we look at the applications landscape we see that more vendors are beginning to realize this. Izenda maintains that 84% of software vendors see embedded business intelligence as the next trend as well as the next major source of their revenue. Just like those other technologies, embedded BI is driving user adoption. A study conducted by Logic Analytics found that 60% of users leveraged embedded analytics on a regular basis, as opposed to 21% of users who used standalone self-service analytics.
Just like the marbling in a steak, BI needs to permeate applications. It needs to lie between the fibers of our systems to the point where the user’s workflow is uninterrupted. As it melts into the application, it will give the user experience a craved for savoriness. We should make no mistake about it, this flavor of BI is something our user community desires.
So, you see BI is corporate fat, but that is not a bad thing. It is the kind of fat we want. It is the kind of fat that gives our systems flavor.