3rd-Generation Business Intelligence (Part I)

At the top of your BI mountain? Think again

I’m seated here on the balcony of our rented apartment in Chamonix looking up at Mont Blanc. It’s an incredible view but its beauty is deceiving and as anyone who has climbed knows, all too often the summit is not the one you can see. In the case of Mont Blanc, the perspective is such that the Dôme du Goûter seen in the foreground often looks bigger. I can assure you it’s not.

Business Intelligence, Analytics and for that matter any of the names it has gone by over the last 40+ years, offers an equally deceiving perspective. Think you’re at the top of your proverbial BI mountain? Think again.

Since I joined Qlik in 2014, I’ve written about the challenges we face in this industry. I’ve talked about the notion that data is simply an ingredient, challenged the perception that SQL is capable of supporting modern analytics and I’ve pushed the idea of equal rights for your data.

Over the same period, we’ve seen the evolution of BI continue to shift as technologies evolve, data has grown, and we’ve pursued the goal of truly understanding and driving value from data. Most notably we’ve seen acceptance in the market of the modern BI platform, representing the move from report-centric 1st generation BI to analysis-centric 2nd generation BI.

1st generation BI reached only 25% of knowledge workers in the enterprise. Owned and curated by IT at the center of the organization, it was also slow to respond to changing business requirements. 2nd generation BI, pioneered by Qlik, saw more people participate in the analytics process. The result was greater value from data, as analytics moved from the centre towards the edges of the organization. However, as the technology evolved so did the data ecosystem and the demand for governance. Qlik’s approach, heralded as the modern BI platform, successfully addressed this and allowed value to be created from an ever-increasing range of analytics use cases.

However, like the mountain, we are once again at the crest of a new wave of analytics and the 3rd generation BI is now upon us–driven by the relentless march of data and a host of new cognitive technologies. Unlike previous waves however, this one feels different. There’s a new dimension in the 3rd wave that has to be addressed to unlock value, and that’s the people dimension. Constrained by a lack of data literacy in global organizations, we will quickly find ourselves unable to summit.

Think about it. Data is unquestionably the foundation of the analytics economy we all live in, and the journey from 1st to 2nd generation BI has proven that analytics can turn that data into insight. However, insight without action will not lead to value. And that’s the key, because we are at a point where the weakest link in this journey is now fully exposed. If people are not data literate, they won’t trust in the data to act on it, and if they don’t act on it, they won’t create value from it.

3rd generation BI therefore has a unique opportunity and unique challenge. How to address the consistent drive for value from more and more data in ever complex formats and locations, and how to apply new and frankly not fully understood technologies such that people are still a key part of the analytics process. That’s the challenge we intend to solve at Qlik through our focus on the democratization of data, augmented intelligence and embedded analytics everywhere. Want to know how? Well, part 2 of this blog will explain.

What's next for #BI? @jamesafisher shares thoughts & approaches on the 3rd wave of Business Intelligence.

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