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19 October 2021

Top 7 Business Intelligence Trends to Watch

Jairek Robbins

From the time Howard Dresner first came up with the term “business intelligence” back in 1989 to refer to the data analysis techniques and tools businesses can use to support their processes of making decisions, the technology has come a long way and appears to be making its way into more and more businesses. This increasing adoption can partly be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic which took almost every business aspect online, but other emerging BI trends have also contributed to the supercharged rate at which these technologies are becoming commonplace. We highlight some of the BI trends which will gather more steam in 2021 and beyond.

Machine learning and AI are pushing the envelope of possibilities 

Have you heard the term augmented BI? It refers to what can happen when business intelligence leverages both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The result of this combination is that non-data analysis professionals can make use of BI in their day-to-day decision making.

Furthermore, augmented BI makes it possible for decision makers to get insights without prompting the technology to avail such reports. In other words, augmented BI puts before you things that you didn’t know and could therefore not request for. It literally removes your blind spots in terms of getting business insights.

The trend of merging AI and machine learning in business intelligence is going to grow in 2021 and beyond.

Taking BI to the cloud is growing

When the pandemic forced nearly everyone to work from home, the need to move business intelligence to the cloud became a no-brainer. Cloud-based BI therefore took off as teams needed to have access to their analytics tools remotely. 

In effect, analytics has been taken where the data is, rather than the data having to come to the analytics tools. The result has been that companies can scale their BI systems, enjoy system flexibility, and make data collection easier, and so on. This trend is going to manifest a lot more going forward.

NLP is coming of age

Not to be confused with neuro-linguistic programing, the NLP referred to in business intelligence is natural language processing. It means that BI tools can generate reports or receive commands in layman’s language.

For example, when you issue a voice command for some data, the BI system will convert your verbal command to a form that the computer algorithm can understand and respond to. You therefore don’t have to enter a complex mathematical equation to request for a report.

In the same vein, the system can give you a graph or other kind of easy-to-understand feedback instead of churning out stuff that only people with computer science degrees can comprehend.

The implications of NLP are astounding as this is one way through which BI can be democratized for the masses. Any wonder that this particular trend is going to grow this year and the years to come?

Embedded BI

In the past, BI was a separate business function and departments or teams had to request the IT guys to prepare a certain report for them. Needless to say, that old way wasted time and plenty of opportunities to exploit BI were lost.

Luckily, we are seeing more cases of BI being embedded into various customer relationship management and other platforms so that data analytics can be available to the system’s end-user in real time.

Consequently, the sales team, for example, can get insights pertinent to their department in just the same way that management can get big picture reports to help steer the company. IT professionals can then have time to focus other core tasks. 

Storytelling using data

Previously, BI tools could simply spew out data or reports which weren’t so consumer-friendly. A trend is emerging in which data is being used to tell a story, a story that a non-data analysis professional can understand.

Think about seeing a bar graph depicting how sales have been growing year by year for the past decade. Such a presentation tells a compelling story, and you don’t need to be an expert to discern the implications of the information before you.

BI systems can now take you through each step of the story or insight generated by the data analysis tool so that the recommendations at the end make perfect sense for you.

BI goes to the frontline

Another trend that is firmly taking root is the “operationalization” of business intelligence. BI is no longer a passive function in tucked away rooms. Rather, it is at the front desk, in the R&D department and everywhere else a user needs it.

Decisions have be data-driven, and data-driven decision-making support has to be available in real time. With operationalized BI, a dashboard can alert a user that there’s an opportunity that has opened up or there is an emerging problem which needs to be addressed.

Growth of predictive business analytics

BI can be put to use to generate reports which predict what is to come so that decision makers can act upon this information in order to get a competitive edge. 

For example, Amazon has been using BI to predict upcoming consumer behaviors and then choosing acquisitions to make in preparation for benefiting from that anticipated trend when it goes mainstream. In this way, Amazon has been scoring major acquisitions on the cheap since only they knew how valuable such entities would be in years to come.

Predictive BI analytics will continue to grow as firms fight for a place at the top of their industries in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Data governance grows in importance

Data governance refers to the management structure bringing together all the employees, processes and technologies playing a role in storing and securing company/corporate information. 

As businesses shift online and more data is stored on the cloud, it is inevitable that consumers will get jittery about their data which is in the hands of private companies. It is common to see people shunning a company where data breaches have been reported, and so a trend is emerging in which data governance is being given a lot more attention than ever before.

The age of business intelligence is firmly with us, and companies need to find ways to take advantage of these systems in order to serve their customers better and keep on a growth trajectory. You either get on board, or fall off the train!

To Your Success,

Jairek Robbins

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