Business intelligence and analytics is now the fourth-largest application software segment, according to Gartner, with BI software revenue expected to climb 7% this year to $13.8 billion, and $17.1 billion by 2016. “As more and more information is generated, business models need reinvention, and it’s increasingly clear that mastering analytics on big data will be a key driver for the next economic cycle,” said Dan Sommer, principal research analyst.
However, while BI/analytics is considered critical to an organization’s success, there’s a lot more that can be done, said Elissa Fink, CMO, Tableau Software, a BI software developer. In a recent global survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, more than 80% of senior executives believe employees across their organizations should use and understand data. More importantly, she said, the study found a clear link between financial performance and the broad use of data by employees.
“Data-driven companies outperform their peers financially,” said Fink. Companies are more than three times more likely than average to rate themselves as substantially ahead in financial performance when they rate themselves as substantially ahead of their peers in their use of data, according to the study. Making data available and easy to use for all employees can transform an organization’s culture and is good for a company’s bottom line, she added.
Last month Tableau broke into the ‘Leader Category’ in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Report for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms, joining powerhouses like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP. Although this is a mature market and has been a top CIO priority for years, there is still a lot of unmet demand, said Gartner. Every company has numerous subject areas — such as HR, marketing, social and so on — that have yet to even start with BI and analytics. The descriptive analytics have largely been completed for most large companies in traditional subject areas, such as finance and sales, but there is still a lot of growth expected for diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive deployments. Moreover, many midsize enterprises have yet to even start their BI and analytic initiatives.
The Tableau-sponsored Economist study found that the data needs of different industry sectors and companies are diverse, yet the strategies used to exploit data fully are not. According to the survey, the most successful companies are maximizing the use of data by providing necessary training and promoting the sharing of data across all levels of employees and departments. Leading companies realize that being successful means giving people the opportunity to work with data, said Fink.
It’s hard to determine return on investment on how data contributes to better decisions, she said, and better decisions are what good data analysis is all about. There’s a definite link between financial success and using data better, said Fink.
A barrier has been the perception that data is just for specialists. A majority of respondents – 75% – said it is really hard to hire skilled data specialists. “It’s hard to recruit and train them.” And if that’s the case, then you need to find ways to help ordinary people incorporate data into their daily lives, she said.
Another interesting finding in the study centered on Big Data, with a fair number of respondents not knowing what it meant. “It’s almost a relative definition and certainly captures people’s attention… (but) it’s frustrating for everybody.”
Looking ahead, Fink said organizations are looking for techniques and data and analysis so ordinary business users can get what they want, when they want at the point of decision. “We’re trying to help with the speed of business. The thing customers look to us for is to help me be faster and smarter with my data today.”