To help businesses get smarter and stronger, BI (business intelligence) systems analyze and synthesize huge pools of corporate data to create terabytes of performance-enhancing information for enterprises of all sizes.
BI can quickly pull critical information out of those huge data streams and serve it up in ways that can improve, grow, and transform operations, sales, and marketing. In fact, so much data can be drawn out of great BI applications today that it's even establishing a bigger need for a new kind of IT worker -- data scientists who are trained to make the most of all that information.
So how do businesses keep up with the improvements that are constantly happening in the BI marketplace so they can take advantage of new innovations? And how can businesses do more with the critical customer and process data they are collecting using their BI systems?
Brian Hopkins, an emerging technologies analyst with Forrester Research, says he's seeing the evolution of traditional BI into new and even more valuable business tools, which is requiring new discussions to occur inside companies.
"CIOs need to have conversations with their business units," Hopkins said. "They need to expand the scope of what they consider is their corporate data. The traditional scope of that information is that it's all much bigger now, because of social media data and more."
What they also need to do, he said, is make sure that their BI applications keep up with the constantly expanding oceans of data that their businesses are generating.
"They need to realize that with all of these new technologies and data streams, such as social media, this is stuff they need to care about," Hopkins said. "They need to begin having conversations with the business leaders about where they could add value from all of this broad, unfiltered data."
What's happening in the world of BI vendors and applications, he said, is that BI has been evolving broadly over the last few years to do more things in new and innovative ways with all the data that's being produced. For some, these changes could indicate that the traditional idea of BI has been failing, but Hopkins said he doesn't subscribe to that idea at all.
"I think the definition of what BI is has been changing," he said. "I dont think it's failed."
In fact, he said, BI has certainly met the challenges it has been historically given: to help companies answer defined sets of questions and to be able to answer and define finite sets of questions with consistency, using known sets of well-structured data.
That's all been made possible by using the analysis tools in BI applications which allow enterprises to dig deeply into their data to find patterns, information, and the stories behind the information.
"Traditional BI has been like driving and looking into your rearview mirror" to see where you have been and what's back there, Hopkins said. "Now, the direction of BI is forward, you are able to drive and look out through the windshield" to see what's happening next.