A BI sea change

By Francois Ajenstat 2011/05/12

This blog entry is part of a series that reviews and discusses recent reports from Gartner.

The BI Market has been evolving significantly over the last 20 years. Over the last few years the definition and requirements for this market have gone through a major change. We used to look at requirements through the lens of IT. However, the definitions and criteria used to define the market have not caught up. The market needs to look at these requirements from the point of view of the users rather than the traditional IT perspective.

Gartner’s description of 13 capabilities (as explained in their seminal Magic Quadrant report) is still widely in use as the standard definition of a business intelligence platform. Terms like reporting had a very specific meaning – pixel-perfect/banded representations of data that can be subscribed to, published, and distributed to a wide range of users. But what is the definition of a report from a business user standpoint? Business users want to consume information to make better business decisions. Whether the information is presented in a pixel-perfect format, in a dashboard or through a graphical visualization, to them, these are all reports.

The traditional reporting requirements still exist and are still very important; however now that BI is moving to a self-service/ad-hoc model where business users are doing their own analysis the definition of legacy terms like reporting are evolving as well. You only need look at customers’ evaluations of BI platforms Reporting capabilities in the Gartner report to recognize that there is change in effect. Despite Tableau’s ranking, old-school BI experts would claim Tableau does not do reporting.

Another consideration on requirements is around “Who” should write reports? Should it be Developers or Business users? Current requirements that are used to compare vendor capabilities tend to focus on the IT developer. We believe that in fact the Business user should be empowered to write their reports and perform their own analysis using fast, simple-to-use, and visual tools like Tableau. Considering that customers using traditional BI are still struggling with report backlogs, long deployments, high training costs, and difficult-to-use tools it’s no wonder that the transition to business-driven, self-service BI is taking the BI market by storm.

As the BI market evolves we need to rethink the definitions and requirements that are used to talk to users. It’s time to break out of our shackles and embrace this sea change.