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Dresner Advisory Puts Cloud and Collaborative BI in 2014-2015 Perspective

By September 16, 2014Article

Editor’s Note: Dresner Advisory Services is renowned for its in-depth Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Study series. I spoke with Howard Dresner about some of the trends and major findings in two of his 2014 reports recently published — the third annual Cloud BI and Collaborative BI market studies. 


Has buyer/user interest in collaborative capabilities in business intelligence increased since your 2013 market study? 

Howard Dresner: The interest in collaborative BI is strong and is up after a dip in 2013. In fact, more than 60 percent of the study’s respondents reported that the collaborative capability is, at minimum, “important.” We consider this as very positive, especially as it takes place amid high-visibility topics such as Big Data and social media. And I’ve seen a lot more collaborative BI products and capabilities in the market in the last nine months. 

The increased interest in collaborative BI makes sense because data becomes more useful as it’s shared. Insight built collaboratively adds value faster and has better buy-in. 

Which collaborative tools are favorites among BI users? 

Howard Dresner: Our study found that email is still users’ top choice for collaboration. However, I’m pleased to see that using email to share BI insights is down year over year and collaborative features within BI tools is up. Instant messaging also ticked down this year. 

Also notable this year is that very large companies’ use of virtual meetings such as WebEx and GoToMeeting caught up with the telephone as a channel for collaborative activities. 

Midsized enterprises like to collaborate via email, face-to-face and virtual meetings. Small enterprises embrace file sharing such as through Dropbox. They also like using collaboration embedded in BI tools. Very large organizations seldom use Dropbox either because of existing file-sharing infrastructures or outright prohibitions on external data sharing. 

What about the long-entrenched use of SharePoint? 

Howard Dresner: Our study annually tracks collaborative frameworks in BI, and Microsoft SharePoint is still the top choice in frameworks. It’s especially preferred at very large organizations. Small organizations have little preference for frameworks. In 2014, slightly less than half of respondents consider the use of an enterprise collaborative framework in conjunction with business intelligence to be critical or very important. However 70 percent of the sales function respondents ranked them as critical or very important.  

When you slice and dice the study data from department/function and industry perspectives, what are the trends in preference for collaborative BI? 

Howard Dresner: Sales and marketing lead the way among functions that consider collaborative BI critical, very important or important. This year they moved ahead of finance and leadership in considering collaborative BI important. 

Among verticals, Technology, Financial Services and Healthcare rank collaborative BI higher in importance than other industries. 

Sixty percent indicating strong interest in collaborative BI is great. What’s holding the other respondents back from stronger interest? 

Howard Dresner: There are three primary factors. First, collaboration needs to be an organizational imperative, not just part of the software or tech stack. That’s because collaboration requires a different mindset and culture where people are comfortable with greater transparency. The notion of co-creation and sharing is still foreign to many people. It’s a higher level of BI than just trying to get visibility into what’s going on in the business. It suggests transparency and accountability, which is very intimidating for many.

The second issue, from my observance, is that the collaboration tools have failed to adapt to real collaborative habits. Collaboration has to be a natural and integrated experience. Software shouldn’t force users to work harder to collaborate. 

Third, it’s still an early market, as evidenced by characteristics such as vendors ranking it more critically important than users and users wanting more features and needing to see more value before adopting. As more collaborative features appear in BI products/frameworks and users better understand best practices, user sentiment may adapt accordingly. 

Where do you expect to see better alignment in 2015 between user requirements/desires and vendor support? 

Howard Dresner: Of course the study provides an entire section and many charts on this topic, but here are a few highlights:

  • Over 80 percent of vendors support some collaborative features today. More than 90 percent reported they plan to support some within 12 months.
  • User demand and vendor delivery of collaborative BI extended feature support is in much better alignment this year than in 2013. Vendors are now most unaligned with user demand for “following BI objects” (a higher user priority) and mobile support (a lower user priority).
  • Collaborative BI via mobile device still shows standing lead time of 12 to 24 months for more than 40 percent of vendors; even so, vendors have moved ahead of the customer demand curve.
  • More than 20 percent of vendors say they have no existing plans to support functionalities of “save and export” discussions” or “support real time” in the future.
  • More than 70 percent of vendors report they expect to support the search functionality, in conjunction with enterprise collaborative frameworks, within 24 months, compared to 52 percent today. This reflects a deeper level of vendor support for ad hoc collaboration rather than more structured approaches such as workflow. 

A notable aspect of support is that in 2012 and 2013 the number of vendors charging their customers for collaborative capabilities included within their BI products decreased from 22 to 13 percent. This year the trend reversed and 21 percent of the vendors attach sufficient value to supporting collaborative capabilities as a revenue stream. 

How is the cloud impacting collaborative BI today? 

Howard Dresner: In theory, cloud deployment facilitates broader collaboration than would be possible with on-premises collaboration. Cloud also leads to more BI tools in use across the enterprise. 


What is the user interest level in cloud BI compared to collaborative BI? 

Howard Dresner: For the past couple of years we’ve seen increasing interest in cloud BI, and this year more than 75 percent of respondents said they consider cloud BI models at least “somewhat important.” Fewer than 25 percent now consider cloud BI not important. There are pure cloud players, but today an increasing number of traditional vendors also offer a cloud BI solution. 

By function, sales, executive management and marketing consider cloud BI most important today. Sales favor public cloud, whereas management mostly favor private clouds. 

The cloud BI market is still nascent, but it’s growing more quickly than others. A lot of innovation still needs to take place for it to be widely adopted, but we’ll get there. That said, this year will have more cloud BI deployments than in 2013. 

Is the adoption mostly private or public cloud? 

Howard Dresner: The percentage of enterprises currently using public cloud BI increased by more than 17 percent since last year and more than 53 percent since 2012. Sentiment toward hybrid architectures of public and private cloud environments is lowest, with fewer current and future adopters. 

Plans for cloud business intelligence through 2015 are noticeably skewed toward private versus public cloud architectures. Almost 50 percent of respondents report they plan to support a private cloud project within two years. 

The majority of vendors already support public, private and hybrid models. About 20 percent say they expect to bring public cloud to existing offerings within 12 months, and a similar number will introduce hybrid models. 

Is security still a major barrier to adoption of cloud business intelligence? 

Howard Dresner: Security of data is a top concern, but loss of control is a bigger issue. Organizations are concerned about issues around data integration and connecting cloud back to on-premises apps and data. The cloud introduces a new level of data mediation — out of IT’s control — that needs to be addressed. 

Our 2014 study indicates that organizational size does not exhibit especially outsized bearing on any particular cloud BI security requirement, but large organizations reflect slightly higher interest in ISO, AICPA and PCI-DSS standards. 

What architectural aspects and product features in cloud BI are top requirements for users now, and does this vary according to the organization size? 

Howard Dresner: Architectural requirements for unique cloud BI features and support are fairly consistent across organizations of different size. Ranking at the top in user priority are conventional database support and data integration/ETL. The two most required cloud BI features are end-user self-service and personalized dashboards. 

The report on the cloud BI study also ranks users’ priorities for other features such as ad hoc query, text analytics, data mining and other features as well as architectural priorities such as data virtualization, In-Memory, RESTful and Web service APIs. 

Is vendor support aligned with user demands? 

Howard Dresner: User requirements and industry support show good alignment in 2014, and the top three cloud BI vendor capabilities and user requirements are aligned. However, there are some gaps in coverage elsewhere on the list. For instance, users rank advanced visualization as number four on their list of requirements, but it ranks number eight in vendor capabilities. Users also rank advanced data mining high on their support list, but it ranks low in vendor support. 

Vendors report that they plan to increase support for cloud security in every sampled category during the next 12 to 24 months. 

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 has 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 was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years. 

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of



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