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New reports highlight state of BI reporting tools

Two new reports from Dresner Advisory Services assess the features that users are looking for in BI tools and which vendors are delivering.

Most organizations are generally optimistic about their use of BI reporting tools, but they see a number of roadblocks...

that threaten to slow their progress toward a more data-driven future, according to Dresner Advisory Service's latest Business Intelligence Market Study.

Respondents to the survey, which queried about 2,000 BI users, reported plans to steadily increase the number of people within their organizations who use BI tools over the next 36 months. Organizations also intend to expand the number of BI tools in operation. Users most commonly implemented BI tools to create dashboards, improve access to data throughout the business and produce advanced data visualizations.

But even as respondents expressed interest in expanding their use of BI, they reported warning signs that could imperil further progress. For example, the number of respondents who described their BI initiatives as "successful" dropped from 41% last year to 35% this year. The number who said their projects were "somewhat unsuccessful" increased from 8% last year to 10% this year.

Additionally, the number of respondents who said they have a common view of data throughout their organization dropped from last year, while the number who said they have multiple, inconsistent sources of data increased. Nearly 40% of organizations said they have fewer than 10% of their employees using BI reporting tools.

That said, Howard Dresner, chief research officer at Dresner Advisory, doesn't see any of these problems as insurmountable. He attributed them to changes in how BI tools are used brought on by more user-centric software, which has spurred broader adoption throughout organizations. This has created governance challenges, but Dresner expects organizations to work out these issues in time.

"I think the market is going through a bit of a transition," he said. "That said, I view this as growing pains and expect it will even out in time."

Collaborative BI raises its profile

A separate report from Dresner Advisory Services shows that collaborative business intelligence is increasingly becoming a priority for businesses.

The report, which surveyed 864 BI users, found that just over 60% of respondents feel that collaborative BI is important, very important or critically important. Among organizations that successfully take action on data, the majority said collaborative tools are critical or very important.

Still, even with the focus on encouraging collaboration within BI reporting tools, most organizations continue to use traditional methods to drive  teamwork. Email, face-to-face meetings and telephone calls were the top three most common responses organizations gave for how they collaborate. Use of collaborative features in BI tools was the sixth most common method.

Chief research officer Howard Dresner said collaborative features in BI software are underused because embedding collaborative tools -- such as the ability to share BI objects and commentary with other users, coauthoring reports and maintaining discussion threads -- within BI systems is relatively new. But it is gaining steam.

"Historically folks have relied on email or face-to-face meetings to drive consensus," he said. "The market is slowly coming around to the point of view that collaboration inside the BI tool is perhaps more efficient."

He said some business departments, such as sales, are currently big users of collaborative BI tools, but other units are catching on. This is driving vendors to offer more collaborative features, which should, in turn, push adoption forward during the next couple years.

"It has to be easy and natural to collaborate," Dresner said. "Organizations have to learn to be transparent and share and document the practice. I see it as a growing area."

The report also ranked BI vendors on their collaborative features, and there were surprises in the list. Pyramid Analytics was ranked as the top collaborative BI vendor, followed by Dundas Data Visualization, Inc. and Logi Analytics. More traditional vendors like Microstrategy, IBM and Tableau all fell outside the top five.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at eburns@techtarget.com and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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