Is the BI Market Opportunity Understated?


According to Gartner, Business Intelligence (BI) was the second-fastest growing enterprise software market in 2011, with 16.4 percent year-over-year sales growth (from $10.5 billion to $12.2 billion). IDC projects the business analytics software market will reach $33.9 billion in 2012.

But are market sizing projections understated? Potentially missing from growth forecasts is that the end-user base for BI tools is exploding, from a relatively exclusive group of IT professionals and data scientists to a market of millions of everyday business users. The reason: BI tools are becoming easier to use, making them accessible to the masses. In short, BI tools are becoming consumerized.

“In the future, analytics and caring about data will become a part of everyone’s job,” says Caleb Poterbin, head of marketing at analytics software provider Chartio.

In this article, I survey some key trends in the BI software market, the use cases for these new and improved applications, and why I think the BI market has a such a large potential.

Accessible BI Improves Small Business Productivity

The small business market–comprising approximately 27.7 million businesses–is one of the most untapped markets for BI. With a new generation of low-cost, easy to use Cloud-based solutions, small businesses can now access analytical tools that were once only available to larger enterprises.

Since small business executives wear many functional hats, a challenge they face is analyzing data compiled from disparate systems. This impedes their productivity. But new applications solve this by consolidating data from multiple systems into a unified dashboard view. Trendslide, for example, integrates information from Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, Google Analytics, Shopify and other systems.

“It’s not necessarily always about deep-level analysis,” says Jeffrey Vocell, co-founder of Trendslide. “It’s about that snapshot.”

Smaller businesses are also benefitting from easy to use data visualization tools. Allow me to share a personal anecdote. I recently downloaded Tableau Public, a free data visualization solution, to analyze an internal database containing over 100,000 rows and 50 columns, or over five million cells. (I tried doing this with Excel first, and it crashed my computer.)

With Tableau, I was able to easily slice-and-dice the information in multiple ways. In a matter of minutes, I was able to spot some interesting trends and send the the packaged analysis over to our operations team for deeper analysis. A powerful analytical tool like Tableau would have been out of my reach–and that of most small business users–just a few years ago.

Visualizations and Dashboards Bring Metrics to Management

Whether they’re managing people, projects or processes, all managers throughout a company of any size want to improve what they manage. Of course, as British physicist Lord Kelvin said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

Measurement tools are now pervasive, but data in its raw form is hard to assimilate. BI dashboards and visualizations address this by presenting data to managers in a way that makes it easy to digest and act upon.

“Take the people who want charts and are asking for visualizations and give them the tools to quickly produce analysis,” says Poterbin. “The end result will be an increase in productivity.”

New entrants to the BI marketplace like Chartio make this easy with intuitive dashboards and visualization tools that don’t require the involvement of others (namely IT) to set up, and can quickly integrate information from Cloud-based databases.

On-Demand Analytics for the Mobile User

Whether it’s a positive or not, mobile has allowed business to permeate into our personal lives. Directors can check sales numbers at the gym. Executives can create ad hoc reports from their bed before the morning board meeting. Salespeople can monitor team activity via dashboards while on a train. Mobile BI allows users to access information anytime, anywhere.

Michael Saylor, chief executive of BI vendor MicroStrategy, recently published a book, The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything, describing the worldwide shift to mobile computing. Saylor predicts five billion smartphones in use by 2015, and the same number of tablets by 2022.

With both lightweight application developers and BI stalwarts such as IBM, Oracle, SAP and others jumping on the mobile-app bandwagon, most mobile users will soon have the ability to utilize BI anywhere. Alerts, mobile-optimized visualizations, and dashboards that can be created on the fly arm individuals with the information they need, when they need (or just want) it.

BI Consumerized, Data Democratized

BI isn’t a silver bullet for every user and every business. BI applications are still just tools to help users go about their jobs. But consumerized BI can be a powerful solution for businesses that need readier access to data, whether for viewing their business data holistically, using it to manage their business against metrics or just for accessing data on the go. With use cases like these, the size of the BI market may be soon poised to explode far beyond analyst expectations.

Has your organization been able to utilize new BI tools? Please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Thumbnail image created by Alaskan Dude.

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Michael Koploy

About the Author

Since joining Software Advice in 2011, Michael Koploy's work has been cited in a variety of online publications, including ReadWrite, O'Reilly, The New York Times and SYS-CON. Michael manages content related to the Business Intelligence (BI) market for Software Advice, writing on BI tools and applications, (big) data-related news and industry trends.

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