[Column] Rousseau Kluever: South African intelligence environment sees increased growth and adoption
The adoption of Business Intelligence is as inescapable as cloud and Big Data, and as inextricably intertwined. Organisations which have adopted the technology early have seen significant competitive advantages. Now, more than ever, organisations are paying attention to business intelligence (BI), especially as analytics continues its steady growth, data visibility becomes clearer and rapid advancement in technology and solution is the norm.
Traditionally, it has been the large enterprises which have driven adoption of BI technology, primarily due to the cost. Today, however, there is a massive focus on inexpensive, simple and customised solutions, especially within the field of self-service BI (QlikSuite, Tableau, Yellow Fin, Power BI). Cloud storage and computing power are also becoming more cost-effective, and bandwidth’s steady increase is centralising processing power and storage and the associated benefits of scalability. This has meant that the smaller players are now entering the field as mass adoption introduces more affordable solutions, and more choice in type and capability.
Then, to really round off the pervasive explosion of data and analytics, the tools and skills which can truly harness their capabilities are also becoming more accessible, and easy to use. Data science is no longer the exclusive domain of the actuary with complex and expensive tools. Instead, self-service data management and analytics can be done with solutions such as Alteryx or the Microsoft Azure platform. Human capital is freed up to focus on the interpretation of data, which is becoming an increasingly invaluable skill.
Another trend to keep an eye on is the analysis of unstructured data made possible through machine learning. Originally, this data would have been considered useless or inaccessible, but today natural language processing (NLP), reports, emails, and media can be mined for business value. Artificial Intelligence (AI) may not be the answer to all questions, and in its current state it is not yet mature enough to be evaluated within the business space. However, some aspects can prove useful such as a Chat Bot performing a semantic analysis to understand natural speech and thereby allowing users to obtain audible information from a system and avoid articulating questions through text.
Within these trends lie the technologies that drive them and one of the most interesting is mobile. As they say, a device in the hand is worth more than two on a desk, and major interactive dashboarding tools such as Qlik, Tableau and Power BI have been paying attention. Their mobile offerings are extensive and sharp. Alteryx is another leading technology that looks set to revolutionise how workflows are performed – previously onerous tasks are reduced to days as a result. Then, Microsoft’s Azure platform is packaged and scalable, and designed for complex data management and analysis. It is also extremely cost effective with virtually all features dynamically scaled and billed per hour of usage.
These technologies are making powerful software available on both a corporate and entrepreneurial level and fundamentally shifting market, industry and BI.
The ease with which data is created has created more than a flood. There are data lakes and pools, data waterfalls and chasms. The more information that is generated; the more storage is needed for the various permutations of the datasets needed for analysis. For storage vendors, there is innovation needed – currently they are repackaging solutions and making them more accessible through the economics of scale.
Perhaps the greatest adoption for BI that is to be considered is that of consumer intelligence. Consumers are adopting and developing intelligence tools through the Internet of Things (IOT), and applications such as Google maps and Google local guides are contributing to the global digital experience. Big data, small data, analytics, BI, and all the tools that enhance, capture and define it are all undergoing a shift. As the technology and the insights it provides becomes more accessible and cost-effective, the more the playing field will be levelled and insights used to transform industry and sector. There is an old Chinese proverb that says ‘May you live in interesting times’, and today the BI landscape is very interesting indeed.