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A Business Intelligence Renaissance: Howard Dresner Shares His Wisdom

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Are we at the dawn of a new more lucid era? With the renewed energy around all things analytical, it would seem to be the case. Analytics and business intelligence is back in the top spot in Gartner’s Top 10 CIO Business and Technology Priorities in 2012 and the buzz about cloud, social and mobile has not been lost on this market.

Recently I sat down with Howard Dresner, someone who knows just a thing or two about the Business Intelligence (BI) market, to find out what’s hot in BI. Howard spent 13 years at Gartner, where he was a Research Fellow and Lead Analyst for BI. He also served as Chief Strategy Officer at Hyperion Solutions prior to forming Dresner Advisory Services in 2007. Howard caught me up on why the business intelligence market is once again buzzing.

Q: Howard, you talk about a business intelligence renaissance. What’s driving some of the innovation and adoption in this market?

Howard Dresner: The two dynamics that have been driving this “renaissance” (as I call it) are a user awakening to the value and importance of BI and the emergence of a new crop of software designed to explicitly meet their needs – not IT’s. These software solutions have emerged as inherently mobile, cloud based and collaborative/social. This has shifted the “center of gravity” of functionality away from the traditional approaches (e.g., on-premise, reporting focused) in favor of extreme usability and rapid time to value.

Q: What do you hear from organization about their biggest drivers for BI today?

Howard Dresner: I think that the biggest single driver for BI today is extreme business complexity. This complexity is largely due to increases in scale, speed, compliance, etc. Lacking proper insight – through Business Intelligence – it will not be possible to adequately navigate a company successfully. In other words, BI = competitive differentiation and even survival!

Q: How real is cloud-based BI/analytics today and how do you see this changing in the next three to five years?

Howard Dresner: Five years ago there was great (unbridled) enthusiasm surrounding cloud-based BI. However, things didn’t emerge or mature as quickly as many hoped they would, which caused disillusionment and trepidation. Since then much has changed in terms of technological innovation, privacy, security and market understanding. A growing number of companies are now moving important applications and data into the cloud. And BI is following suit. Today most BI software providers have some semblance of a cloud offering. And dedicated cloud BI providers that we’ve spoken to appear to be growing and performing well. It will still take time to emerge as a preferred choice. However, in five years I’ll be surprised if it isn’t preferable to on-premise BI.

Q: What are the barriers to delivering BI in the cloud?

Howard Dresner: Any time the status quo is disrupted, those aligned with it resist any change. For those with a long history of on-premise BI, cloud-based BI represents this sort of disruptive change.

Moving to a cloud-based approach certainly requires effort and change – especially for IT. This can seem threatening even once fully understood. Hence many IT organizations are somewhat more reluctant than end users to consider cloud-based BI. Likewise, inertia is a potent force because of the perceived difficulty and expense in moving from on-premise to the cloud – even with the realization that existing solutions may not fully meet user requirements. This sort of reluctance on the part of IT creates the dynamic where underserved users will make the shift to the cloud – independent of the IT department.

Q – What about mobile business intelligence?

Howard Dresner: Like cloud computing eclipsing enterprise systems, mobile represents the future of computing for users, in general, and for Business Intelligence. What makes mobile BI so compelling is that for the first time insights now follow users – making it feasible to deliver the right insights to the right users at the right time! In the three mobile BI market studies we’ve conducted, we have seen a trend towards broad deployments of mobile BI and even the exclusive use of Business Intelligence on mobile devices.

Q: How important is data integration to all flavors of business intelligence?

Howard Dresner: Data integration has always been important as a means of providing more complete perspective by combining and interrelating data from disparate systems (e.g., ERP, CRM). As external information sources grow in importance, data integration becomes even more pressing. For example, social media data may be interesting when viewed in isolation. However, when combined with other sources (e.g., call center, planning), it helps to build more complete (and actionable) perspective than previously possible.

Q: Can you give us a sneak peak at any early results or surprises from this year’s Wisdom of the Crowds TM Business Intelligence Market survey?

Howard Dresner: This year’s (3rd annual) Wisdom of Crowds TM Business Intelligence Market Study is our most ambitious yet. In addition collecting the usual data on usage trends, and vendor/product ratings, we expanded the technology section and also have special sections on both cloud and collaborative BI.

As with previous years, we expect to see continued growth of direct business-user adoption of Business Intelligence solutions. This year we also asked about perceived success with mostly positive feedback. As a result, we expect to be able to offer the Top 10 reasons why BI is or is not successful.

Q: Where can people go to take the Wisdom of the Crowd survey?

Howard Dresner: We want everyone that uses BI solutions to complete a survey (vendors are not eligible). Qualified survey respondents will get a complimentary copy of the study findings.

Go to http://wisdomsurvey.com to complete the survey. Data collection ends April 2, 2012.

Q: Are you having fun?

Howard Dresner: More than ever, it’s a great time to be involved in the Business Intelligence market! So, yes, I am having tremendous amount of fun!

Darren Cunningham is Vice President of Marketing at Informatica Cloud.

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