Data-driven businesses are five times more likely to make faster decisions than their market peers, and twice as likely to land in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries. Business Intelligence, previously known as data mining combined with analytical processing and reporting, is changing how organizations move forward.

Since decisions based on evidence are entirely more reliable than decisions based on instinct, assumptions or perceptions, it’s become clear that success is now cultivated from analyzing relevant data and letting the conclusions of that data drive the direction of the company.

Although it’s become crystal clear that data-driven strategy is the way to go, up until recently, access to sophisticated Business Intelligence tools has been restricted to large enterprises and enterprise-level solutions. Only the industry giants have benefitted from sophisticated analytics due to the considerable investment required not only to collect the data, but also to maintain an in-house data scientist to translate it into usable information.

But 2017 is the year of change.

SMBs are desperate to take advantage of the same analytics as the big players, and are therefore demanding an alternative – self-sufficient Business Intelligence tools. More than half of business users and analysts are projected to have access to self-service Business Intelligence tools this year. According to Gartner’s Research Vice President Rita Sallam, BI is rapidly transitioning from “IT-led, system-of-record reporting to pervasive, business-led, self-service analytics.”

Thanks to more intuitive interfaces, increasingly intelligent data preparation tools, improved integrations and a distinctly lower price tag, 2017 is the year SMBs become empowered to become their own data scientists. Here’s what to expect this year:

  • Affordable Access

The good news for SMBs is that complex data analytics is becoming more cost effective, and as a result, considerably more accessible. In 2017, we expect to see the trend continue to grow as more players enter the market. The wave of new, self-service BI tools allows SMBs to gather, analyze and interpret data, draw detailed analytics and discern trends, filter useful information from the raw data and automate data mining for quicker turnaround.

  • Smarter Integration

BI innovations are becoming more widely available through a variety of integrations into messaging services and IoT. Sisense, for example, is rolling out voice-activated BI interfaces for Amazon Alexa, chatbots and connected lightbulbs. “Our entire focus is on simplifying complex data,” CEO Amir Orad comments.

Alexa handles the natural language processing of voice-to-text, and then “understands” the question it was asked. It passes the information over to Sisense, which parses the text to find out what it means, and then delivers an answer. The plug-and-play approach allows complex analytics to leverage these new interfaces and platforms, as evidenced by the use of Alexa for natural language processing.

Welcome to the new BI: it’s on-demand.

  • Simplified Analytics

The commoditization of Business Intelligence platforms has evolved to the point where enterprises are no longer required to possess sophisticated analysis skills to process and utilize raw data. For example, both Tableau and Domo provide comprehensive suites of layman-accessible services from back-end number crunching to front-end visualization. Users can simply drag-and-drop to pull data from multiple sources and link up data fields, creating interactive dashboards to help with visualization.

  • Cloud Based Data

In years past, BI analytics required processing huge amounts of data stored on company servers. Given the sheer data volume, the trend is to embrace distributed infrastructures in cloud-based BI solutions. It’s a cycle: the enormous amount of data collected on a daily basis has spurred a demand for more data storage mediums, causing the price of bandwidth and storage-per-gigabyte to fall to historical lows, thus encouraging increased usage. The widespread adoption of cloud platforms for data warehousing underwrites the push toward SMB BI self-sufficiency.

  • Evolved Visualization

Expect analytics to become more “in your face”. While data visualization has always enabled decision makers to see analytics and therefore identify patterns, the new self-sufficient BI tools offer interactive visualization, which takes the concept a step further. The interactive dashboards on many of these tools allow users to drill down into charts and graphs for more detail, interactively changing which pieces of data are displayed and how they are processed – all in real time.

  • Collaboration

Because BI is becoming more accessible, the opportunity for SMBs to employ cross-team collaboration will increase. For example, content marketing teams are suddenly able to work closely with data teams to measure how each piece of content works best across multiple formats and contexts. With the insights from that data, the content team can adjust their editorial calendar to include the types of content that perform best and focus on the topics that earn the most attention. This collaboration makes closed-loop marketing possible.

A Better, Data-Fueled Future

The increased availability of BI solutions means that SMBs are no longer tethered to expensive, slow enterprise software. Affordable, meaningful data insights are increasingly accessible, positioning everyone as their own Data Scientist.


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