Business Discovery: The future of Business Intelligence

Over the past decade, the internet has made the world one global community and the consumerisation of IT has driven some of the most fundamental changes within it. These have shaped business strategies across the globe.

Businesses face the continuous challenge of dealing with increased quantities of data, holding information securely and analysing this data quickly and intuitively to make informed business decisions.

They also have to adapt and make the best use of new technologies, such as cloud computing and remote access to data though the growth of smart phones and tablet computers. This has resulted in ‘on-the-go access’ becoming the norm for consumers and businesses alike.

More recently, social networking has changed the way we communicate with each other whilst another new development, Business Discovery – user driven Business Intelligence – has revolutionised the way businesses manage and analyse their data.

Business Discovery is providing a whole new level of user-driven analysis that far exceeds the limitations of traditional BI platforms. Business Discovery also has the benefit of being able to be deployed on premise, in the cloud, or on a laptop or mobile device—from a single user to large global enterprises.

However, while Business IT remains focused on a ‘one approach suits all’ strategy, the focus in the home sphere has been on building intuitive applications which can be used by the user in the manner that suits them best. It’s what we call the ‘democratisation’ of information.

Against this backdrop, the development of Business Discovery was strongly influenced by the consumer experience of IT. It is by listening to what the business user wants – drawing upon their experiences as consumer-users of IT – that Business Discovery has been able to deliver a more natural and intuitive experience for the way in which we manage and use our data.

Unlike traditional BI, Business Discovery isn’t limited in its search functionality; users can ask what they need to ask, and explore information up, down and sideways rather than having to follow a set path.

Furthermore, it allows users at every level, from board level to researcher, to tailor searches individually and make discoveries that would otherwise be unavailable without first predefining paths and generating a bespoke report. In short, Business Discovery is a bottom-up approach that fulfils the promise that Business Intelligence could not 20 years ago.

Business Discovery – Empowering the non-IT user

Dr Gareth Goodier, chief executive of one of the UK’s top teaching hospitals – Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – said in March: “(Business Discovery) is the most advanced and most accessible information service I have ever seen.” In addition, his director of information systems and analysis, Frances Cousins, added: “Throughout my career, the idea of shared data ownership has been something of a ‘Holy Grail’. With Business Discovery, I have found it.”

Furthermore, Paul Evans of Gwent Police, said of Business Discovery: “It has already proven its value … The ease of use provided by the consumerised interface allows any authorised user to access information and run reports with minimal need for training.”

In a January 2011 report, technology research specialists Gartner recently placed the main BI companies in four quadrants – leaders, challengers, niche players and visionaries. The report also recognised this shift in user driven BI and summed up the situation by saying:

“The demand side of the BI platform market in 2010 was defined by an intensified struggle between business users’ need for ease of use and flexibility on the one hand, and IT’s need for standards and control on the other. With ‘ease of use’ now surpassing ‘functionality’ for the first time as the dominant BI platform buying criterion in research conducted for this report, vocal, demanding and influential business users are increasingly driving BI purchasing decisions, most often choosing easier to use data discovery tools over traditional BI platforms — with or without IT’s consent.”

There is a ground swell of change in the world of Business Intelligence (BI). It may be surprising to many that such a revolution is underway given the low level of awareness beyond the pages of the IT media. However with a new band of non-IT champions now emerging to sing the praises of user-driven BI, it is only a matter of time before what is termed Business Discovery achieves serious attention in boardrooms across the UK.

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Sean Farrington has been MD UK & Ireland and Regional Vice President for Northern Europe for QlikTech since July 2009. He has over 15 years experience in the business software industry, 10 of those are within Business intelligence. Prior to QlikTech, Sean was Regional Vice President and General Manager, UK, Ireland and South Africa for SAP Business Objects. He also lived and worked in Stockholm for four years whilst being responsible for Business Objects' Nordic operations. Before Business Objects, Sean worked at Crystal Decisions and Rockwell's eCommerce division, and spent 14 years serving as a Commissioned Officer in the British Army. As well as being a trained helicopter pilot, Sean also holds qualifications in Computer Science, Ammunition Technology and Logistics.