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The future of business intelligence (BI) tools: getting prepared

Business intelligence (BI) technology is in constant flux as BI vendors buy other companies and add new features to their software. In addition, emerging technologies such as operational BI, real-time BI and in-memory and in-database analytics are creating new challenges for BI teams. Is your company ready for the future of BI tools? Should this "next generation" of BI software be rolled out enterprise-wide or departmentally? How should you prioritize your organization’s BI investments and build a business case for implementations of new BI technologies? There’s a lot that IT and business professionals involved in managing BI systems need to consider.

To help you get prepared, we turned to Forrester Research analyst and BI expert Boris Evelson for his advice and guidance on the future of business intelligence tools and how companies can leverage the new technologies to their advantage.

In this nine-minute interview, viewers will hear real-world examples of how businesses are using the new wave of BI tools and get tips on prioritizing future BI investments, calculating the potential return on investment (ROI) on a BI implementation and overcoming common challenges in deploying new BI technology. Evelson also discusses BI best practices and the importance of good data governance.  

Related resources on BI software and strategies:

About the speaker: Boris Evelson is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., where he focuses on business intelligence. Evelson provides strategic guidance to help enterprises define their BI strategies and architectures and identify appropriate vendors and technologies. He also does research on emerging BI trends and best practices for building BI systems. Evelson has more than 25 years of experience in the IT and management consulting fields, including positions at JP Morgan Chase and Citibank.  

Read the full text transcript from this video below. Please note the full transcript is for reference only and may include limited inaccuracies. To suggest a transcript correction, contact editor@searchbusinessanalytics.com.   

The future of business intelligence (BI) tools: getting prepared

Lauren Hoyt: Hello, and welcome to Data Management Video on Business
Intelligence. I am Lauren Hoyt, Senior Editor for
SearchDataManagement.com. Joining me today to talk to me about
how to get started with next-generation business intelligence is
Boris Evelson.

Boris Evelson: Good morning. Thank you.

Lauren Hoyt: Thank you for joining us. Boris is a principal analyst with
Forrester Research. He is a leading expert in business
intelligence and has more than 25 years of experience with
enterprise software, applications, implementation, management
consulting, and strategic advisory skills. Thank you for joining
us today, Boris.

Boris, we are starting to hear more about a new generation of
business intelligence tools on the market today. Do you have any
real world examples of how organizations are using these tools
to make better decisions?

Boris Evelson: Absolutely, Lauren, there are plenty of examples. There is a
single industry that I would single out, that would be financial
services. Traditional BI, as we discussed earlier today, really
addresses a batch-type, a slow historical-type of an analysis.
If you can imagine, for a financial firm, for a Wall Street
firm, very often they need to make real-time decisions, real-time
analysis. Typically, as I said, that has been the realm of
completely separate technologies, with all the ramifications of
reconciling the data back and forth between different
applications. We see plenty of examples in the financial
services where, from the beginning, to unify traditional disk-
based, date warehouse-based BI with in memory BI, a traditional
modeled BI, with the limitless exploration of in memory BI.
I would say financial services firms are leading this trend.

Lauren Hoyt: That's interesting. Are most organizations prepared to take
advantage of these next generation BI capabilities?

Boris Evelson: I would split my answer into two parts. I would say,
departmentally and in some workgroups, probably, yes; they can
immediately take advantage of some tools in memory exploration.
On an enterprise level, I would say most of the organizations
are probably not ready. As we will talk about in a few seconds,
business intelligence is much more about best practices, much more about
methodology, much more about prioritization and good product management,
and much less about technology. Whereas a lot of organizations
do have a good technological foundation, everything else that I
just talked about -- governance, business-led ownership of BI
initiatives -- that still leave a lot to be desired. I would say
you would need to take care of that first before you can fully
address next generation BI.

Lauren Hoyt: OK. With all of the new capabilities out there, how do you
suggest that organizations prioritize and prepare to take
advantage of these next generation BI tools? Where should they

Boris Evelson: It is exactly what I said, if there is a single key success factor
for any business intelligence success, I would say it is
business-led data governance, and we at Forrester write a lot
about that. Please visit our website and take a look at some of
the research documents that we have published on the importance
of data governance; I would say invest in that first. Make sure
that you got all the processes and organizational structure to
govern your data because if business stakeholders do not agree
on the meaning of certain entities, what is a customer? To me
and to you, a customer definition could be different, so how can
we build the right application if we do not even agree on
definitions? Get the governance process in place, agree on those
metrics and then map your requirements to the technology
capabilities of the applications.

Lauren Hoyt: On that note, how would you suggest that our viewers go about
calculating ROI, or building a business case for next generation
business intelligence?

Boris Evelson: That's a great question, because business intelligence, ROI, is
notoriously difficult to calculate. As a matter of fact, just a
few weeks ago, I published a document just on that subject. My
recommendation is, just like with anything else, use common
sense and proceed very, very slowly. No one has really been able
to successfully build and all-encompassing enterprise-wide
business intelligence ROI case, so start slowly. Build a business
case for bottom line benefits. Cost savings, resource
redeployments, consolidating multiple applications into a single
one, get your feet wet building those business cases. Then, and
only then, proceed to the top-line business cases, where you are
going to start correlating revenue increases, better customer
retention to business intelligence. Those are much more
difficult, for multiple reasons that I discuss in the document
that I have. Proceeding slowly on BI business cases, ROI, taking
baby steps is very important.

Lauren Hoyt: That's an interesting approach. What are the biggest
challenges that our viewers are likely to face with implementing
next generation BI, and do you have any suggestions for
overcoming them?

Boris Evelson: Absolutely. The biggest challenge, and you will probably guess
what my answer is, is not technology. It is business priorities,
and it is business involvement. I would say make sure that your
CXOs, your senior executives understand the importance of
business intelligence. Hopefully they learned over the years,
that without measurement, you cannot manage your company. If
they do not understand this, then teach them, educate them with
BI business cases, and slowly but surely, hopefully, they will
understand. Once that transformation takes place, once there is
a very strong top-down mandate to implement business
intelligence, use it as your daily operations and as part of
strategic cycles, typically, that is when things start going
smoothly. That is when an organization is truly ready for next
generation BI.

Lauren Hoyt: Any final words of advice or inspiration for BI professionals
who might be tasked with implementing these next generation BI

Boris Evelson: Sure. Obviously, as you can tell, I can talk about this subject
for hours, and there is plenty of advice on best practices, but
there are two that I want to single out. Number one is working
with professionals. As you can tell, business intelligence is
all about best practices; you can't really study BI in
college or by textbook and use the software as plug-and-play.
You really need someone who has accumulated tons and tons of
best practices, lesson learned, do's and don'ts, the only way
you can do that is if you have literally hundreds of such
implementations projects under your belt, and therefore, working
with professional system integrators, manager consultants, is
very, very, important. It is an important key to success.

The last point I want to make is try to make your BI agile. I
typically speak about this at most of the conferences because
that is a very important topic, and of a lot of interest to
clients. Try to make your BI more flexible because traditional
BI is quite rigid, and our world is not rigid; it changes on
a daily basis. There are a lot of best practices that are out
there to make BI agile, flexible, and react to the ever-changing
business regulatory environment, so I would say that is a very
important key to success.

Lauren Hoyt: Good advice. Thank you so much for joining us today, Boris.

Boris Evelson: My pleasure. Thank you.

Lauren Hoyt: That wraps up today's video on business intelligence. We would
like to give another thanks to our speaker, Boris Evelson. We
would also like to thank you for joining us. We hope you found
this video informative.

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