For today's enterprises, this is a huge boon for using BI data.
Traditional BI has asked questions, gathered data, cleaned and structured the information, and put it into forms that could be queried and filtered to produce valuable business information that could be used to plan strategies and make decisions. "Traditional BI is about creating reports and making inferences about the past and the future," Hopkins said. "It's not as cheap as we would have liked and it takes longer than we would have liked, but it generally meets that need."
Better means of BI have been coming for the last five or 10 years, he said, and those ideas are showing up more and more today in viable products that do more for enterprises.
Instead of going through the data sets and reacting to what's already happened in a business, the latest BI systems can do more by anticipating what will happen in the future and help plan for those expectations, based on the old data that's already been collected.
"The whole idea of predictive analysis like this has been around awhile," Hopkins said. "It's not a new science. It's here and more changes like this are coming."
Essentially, new generations of BI applications will give enterprises additional and better information to use and analyze.
Hopkins discusses this in his research paper: "Big Opportunities In Big Data: Positioning Your Firm To Capitalize In A Sea Of Information."
"We began seeing it five to 10 years ago when airlines started setting ticket prices using sophisticated models," Hopkins said. "Hotels followed suit, based on predictive models. Even your credit scores are done this way, and retail stores are using it to see what they should stock in the future based on customer needs."
With older BI methods, businesses were only looking at the past, then collecting, massaging, and running statistical models on the data. "What we're seeing now is that a new generation of predictive analytics is developing to allow us to not have to do so much massaging and filtering."
And what's even bigger is that the new BI methods don't require users to know the specific questions they have to ask to get the answers they are seeking. "The old way required you to know the questions" to get the right information, Hopkins said. "Here you can have a general idea of value and try to draw some conclusions out of it. What we're beginning to see are whole new ways of using BI for analysis."
These new developments and features continue the evolution of BI, he said. "The old way has reached some limits. The new frontier in analytics is focusing on this raw, unprocessed, unfiltered data. It used to be [done through] a batch process. What we're talking about now is shifting away from that batch process to more real-time analysis."
That means that BI data can now be analyzed more on the fly, as it comes in, rather than just after it is placed in reports. The old way simply cannot keep up, and many users are overwhelmed with the huge volumes of data coming in quickly.
"That's kind of the new frontier of BI," Hopkins said. "CIOs will be able to use BI in new ways. Our understanding of BI is changing."
For CIOs and other IT business leaders, these changes and advances in BI will be key in filtering out the corporate winners and losers in how this broad new generation of data is utilized, he said.
"The businesses that are going to be successful are the ones who are going to find ways of making decisions based on this new unstructured data," Hopkins said. "They need to challenge their technology platforms and figure out how they are going to change them to capture that unstructured data."
Todd R. Weiss covers ERP, CRM, BI, Oracle, SAP, virtualization and cloud computing for CIO.com. He's also interested in a wide range of other fascinating IT topics, from open source to data centers and more. Follow Todd on Twitter @TechManTalking. And don't forget to join Todd in the CIO Forum on LinkedIn.com to talk with CIOs and IT managers about the things that keep them up at night. Email Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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