Opinion: The importance of analytics in business intelligence

By Neil Chandler
01 Feb 2012 View Comments
Gartner's Neil Chandler

Users are integral to business analytics and should form part of an enterprise’s BI strategy

Business analytics (BA) initiatives can deliver great benefits and their need is driven mainly by trends in three areas:

Further reading

1. Data trends – The volume of data is growing, as is its variety. There is, for example, real-time data, near-time data, structured data and unstructured content.

2. Technology trends – IT infrastructure and analytical architecture are maturing, and sophisticated analytical techniques are emerging, along with increasing processing power, such as in-memory.

3. Business trends – The main drivers of BA are changing business dynamics. Users are increasingly knowledgeable, and many are comfortable doing their own analysis as producer-consumers, instead of relying on IT departments.

However, adoption of BA poses significant challenges – the massive amounts of data involved, the need for real-time access, the lack of process maturity and the common scarcity of skills all make the road to success harder to travel.

Organisations must first define the current state of their business intelligence (BI) strategy and identify the next-generation analytics architecture. Once such individual analytical capabilities have been identified, organisations should define how they will be integrated as a continuum, the integration points, and the service-level agreements that will support the business and its decision processes. This continuum will extend across multiple user communities and use cases to provide a portfolio of reusable components that can support a widespread approach to BA.

A BA initiative should support the diverse needs of all users in the organisation and beyond, and organisations should look to use different components from a portfolio of technologies to provide comprehensive support. Having a BA framework also helps to shift the focus of an organisation’s information strategy away from a monolithic data warehouse for structured data to a federated hybrid platform.

Organisations that do not include business users as integral and enthusiastic members of their BA team will double their long-term costs for supporting BA because they will find themselves having to redefine, redesign and refine their BI strategy to reflect the needs of those users.

Business user representatives might not have a deep understanding of BA technologies, but it is vital they highlight the requirements of the business, aid in the prioritisation of projects and help to promote BA efforts among business users.

Neil Chandler, research director, Gartner

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