Five years ago, when my company began conducting annual market studies of the use of the cloud computing model in business intelligence (BI) deployments, the model’s future was “cloudy” in the BI world. Each year our survey examines the “importance” that users associate with cloud BI. Now with five years of data tracking the market, it’s clear that there is a real sea change in attitudes toward cloud BI and it’s entering new territory.
Survey respondents’ ranking of importance peaked in 2014 and has declined since then. However, as the figure below shows, only 38 percent of respondents in our 2016 study report they have no plans for cloud BI. So while the “importance” of cloud BI adoption may be declining, deployments are actually increasing. This is a significant finding: it shows real progress and is a sign of a healthy, maturing market. In maturing technology segments, it’s not unusual for the sense of urgency around adoption to recede from initial market hype levels even while deployments/adoption increase.
Expanding territory of interest
Cloud-based business intelligence comprises the technologies, tools and solutions that employ one or more cloud deployment models. It also refers to both pure-play cloud-based BI and also to installing a BI platform of choice in the cloud.
The use of cloud-based BI appears to have naturally ramped up in proportion to other enterprise workloads shifting to the cloud. In fact, when we compare the respondents’ ranking of the top feature requirements for cloud-based BI, they tend to be fairly consistent with enterprise BI requirements. However, our 2016 Wisdom of Crowds® study on “Cloud Computing and Business Intelligence” reveals the use of the cloud model in business intelligence is expanding to “new” territory or areas of interest.
For example, from our survey questions examining perceived success with BI and questions around cloud BI adoption, we find that organizations successful with BI now embrace the public cloud model as a means of strategic BI expansion. This finding goes hand in hand with respondents reporting that one of their prime uses of cloud BI is to deliver solutions to external constituents such as customers.
In fact, our 2016 study findings indicate plans for public cloud BI use slightly eclipse private cloud use. This is a notable finding and somewhat surprising since it has been common in other technology investments to bring hosted models in house, rather than the reverse. We expected hybrid models to eclipse other models; but this has not happened. One reason could be that organizations have developed a familiarity and comfort level with public cloud over time, which has led to greater adoption of this model in business intelligence.
Another area of cloud BI expansion is the desire for functionality to access third-party data connectors. Although these connectors are not in universal demand yet, our study reflects the growing popularity of both off-premises data platforms and the business intelligence value of data within them.
The study found that respondents’ attitudes toward the importance of connectors to their on-premises applications has lessened. Organizations clearly show a growing demand since a year ago for cloud BI integration with a variety of Web-based sources versus conventional wisdom of in-house resources. Our study currently tracks BI users’ preferences among 28 third-party data connectors (such as Google Analytics, Marketo, Salesforce, LinkedIn, foursquare, Twitter, and others) and also segments preferences according to enterprise functional roles.
In addition to connectors, we examined the survey data around other architectural features for cloud BI. The breadth of architectural requirements in 2016 is notable as respondents ranked almost every category near or above 50 percent “critical” or “very important.” As cloud BI expands its territory, the topic that attracts the highest level of new interest this year is RESTful/Web services.
Surprising findings about cloud BI security
Security capabilities are usually the first concern with any enterprise apps moving to the cloud. Respondents in our 2013 cloud BI study ranked it as the top barrier for adoption, and security remains the top barrier to cloud BI adoption in 2016. However, a surprising finding in this year’s study is that most organizations don’t have a grasp of security issues related to cloud BI.
Data from several survey questions around industry support for cloud BI functionalities and features show that vendor support for security standards is improving but is still weak. As in other areas of BI technology, the level of vendor support historically has proved to be an indication of customer/user demand. Our 2016 study found that approximately 50 percent of respondents reported their organizations have no preference in cloud security requirements.
The majority of respondents in all geographies except North America reported that they don’t know/understand relevant security requirements in their organization, industry or geographic region. It is especially surprising to see this is the case among 70 percent of EMEA respondents, given the broad regulatory mission in the European Union.
Awareness of security issues is somewhat more prevalent among respondents in highly regulated industries (such as healthcare). Our study found that organizational size doesn’t necessarily correlate directly to awareness of security requirements for cloud BI, although midsized organizations (101-1,000 employees) generally rank lower than small or large organizations in their knowledge of or sensitivity to security requirements.
IT intervention in cloud BI
Business intelligence users’ desire over the past few years to avoid IT intervention shows up as a factor in our 2016 study of cloud BI. We contrasted the findings around “importance” of cloud BI in 2016 with data on this question over the past five years. Currently, the perceived importance of cloud BI is lowest in IT, finance, and operations where traditional enterprise BI provisioning is the norm.
Conversely, marketing, executive management, and sales are more likely to appreciate the ability to implement cloud BI without the need for significant IT intervention. These same functional roles are more likely to be aware of function-specific tools and services for BI processes (such as Salesforce) through third-party providers and cloud-based platforms.
Cloud BI feature priorities
We also examined users’ current prioritization of features in cloud BI. At the top of the list with the most growth in importance is end-user data preparation – which is very hot now in BI.
The study also found that currently the BI competency center (BICC) is the strongest proponent for priority of features such as ad-hoc query, self-service, data integration, discovery and several lesser requirements. This is a notable finding in that it reflects the breadth of responsibilities and undertakings and the BICC’s role as the proxy R&D BI arm in organizations.
Cloud BI trends in a nutshell
Based on rankings of respondents in our 2016 “Cloud Computing and Business Intelligence” survey, cloud-based BI ranks significantly higher than more aggressively marketed BI topics including big data, social media analysis and the Internet of Things.
In a nutshell, cloud BI (especially public cloud) is maturing and becoming mainstream.
Download the report here. It includes details on such factors as plans for cloud BI use through 2017, feature requirements and priorities, ranking of user interest in third-party data connectors, preferences in cloud BI architectural requirements, cloud BI licensing preferences (all segmented by deployment model, function, organization size, industry and geography), vendor support availability and plans for cloud BI, rankings of 23 cloud BI vendors and many other findings.
Demographics of survey respondents for the 2016 report:
- Four geographies (North America, which includes the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, accounts for more than half of the 2016 survey base; EMEA respondents 28 percent, followed by Asia Pacific and Latin America)
- Respondents represent 21 industries
- Organization size (30 percent have 1-100 employees, 32 percent have 101-1,000 employees, and the remaining third have more than 1,000 employees)
Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in business intelligence and related areas, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He published two books on the subject: “The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action,” and “Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change.” He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and earlier was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its business intelligence research practice for 13 years.