Brian Gentile is Sr. Vice President & General Manager of the TIBCO Analytics Product Group within TIBCO Software. Formerly, he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Jaspersoft, which was acquired by TIBCO in April 2014.
Today’s businesses are overrun with data. Yet without the right information, data provides no true business value. Whilst legacy business intelligence (BI) products were created to extract usable intelligence out of mass amounts of data, those BI systems have not kept pace with the modern data centre. Traditional BI reporting and analytics tools are stand-alone, costly and complex. However, today’s big data flows through the cloud as well as the network and is largely unstructured. Data comes in at the speed of the Internet – a speed that is much too fast for old systems to digest. Modern data must be easily accessible by any device, be it a PC, tablet or mobile phone. Knowledge workers scattered across the globe must be able to analyse data in whatever applications they use most, so the information must be agile, always available, usable and intelligent.
Knowledge workers want data to find them, not the other way around. Otherwise, they spend too much time inside a BI tool instead of doing their job. For BI to be useful in a modern architecture, it needs to be embedded inside the most popular applications. For example, the sales team needs a pipeline dashboard inside their SaaS CRM application; Human Resources need salary data visualisations inside the HR intranet; the helpdesk needs tickets crosstab inside custom helpdesk applications; field workers need interactive charts inside native mobile applications.
Modern data tools should lead to democratisation of data and information so that anyone in an organisation can have access to the right data, and be able to self-serve the reports they want. The cost and complexity problem inherent in the old BI tools prevented workers from getting the right information at the right time, making BI useful to only a select few. What users want is a BI tool that can be easily embedded into any application or device enabling the business user to interact with actionable reports and visual data without being tied down to a single application or computer.
The real disruptive agent in bringing about modern BI solutions is the cloud. In the upcoming years, the aged proprietary vendors and the problems they solve will become obsolete. The problems of today’s data centre involve interacting in a hybrid world, where data is contained in both private databases and public cloud databases, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). The new problems require the agility and openness only found in lighter weight, less expensive and much simpler BI tools that are either on-premises or in the cloud and can easily flow between both environments. The new data centre is the perfect place for embedded BI solutions.
An embedded BI tool must have functionality similar to traditional offerings. That includes robust reporting, self-service capabilities, great visualisation, the ability to provide ad hoc tools and multidimensional analytic tools. In addition, an embedded BI tool must also have a host of developer-oriented features and capabilities that are very uncommon in traditional BI software. Because embedded BI is coded into an application, an embedded BI solution must have developer tools as well. Developers care about architecture, and great architecture is built on accessible APIs that are well-structured, well-documented and available through various programming techniques.
Most knowledge workers today are not able to take full advantage of BI because of the limitations of traditional BI solutions. Delivering reports and analysis inside of an application domain is the most powerful way to expand BI to a bigger audience while enabling a business to be more competitive. Embedded BI solutions are finally unleashing the intelligence inside many business applications and enabling workers to do their best work with optimal information anytime, anywhere on any device.
(Image Credit: Ash Kyd)