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Gartner: Business, analytics fail to connect, mobile BI gets real

Brian McKenna, News and Site Editor

Gartner will present the need for BI strategy and structure in a landscape characterised by strategic misalignment, constant intra-organisational struggle and exiguous cloud adoption at its upcoming BI summit in London.

So far, so 2011. But 2012 will signal the serious advent of mobile BI, according to Gartner analyst Andreas Bitterer.

Said Bitterer: “iPads have brought an inflection point in how BI can be consumed. So, the whole mobile thing is relatively new.

“It is still more talking than walking with respect to senior executives.”

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While there are new use cases among mobile workers like medical doctors, truck drivers and gate agents at airports, the typical finance BI person remains deskbound. Are the new use cases, then, really BI?

“They are less about BI and more new types of content -- X-rays and health records [in the case of medical personnel,” Bitterer said.

More broadly, Gartner is predicting a strategic misalignment between BI and business strategies.
“By 2014, fewer than 30% of business intelligence (BI) initiatives will align analytics completely with enterprise business drivers,” Gartner said in a pre-conference press statement.

Even the biggest brands have difficulties. “It is not by design,” Bitterer said. “It usually just happens because of mergers and acquisitions and so on. There is a real zoo of tools and set of politics. It’s not a technology problem. BI almost never fails to work as a technology. It’s more about process, structure and strategy, lack of senior management support. It is sad, but the reflection of corporate goals in the BI environment tends to be negligible.

“Organisational change is just so hard. To get to next level [with analytics] takes an incredible amount of convincing.”

Some organisations do tremendous things with analytics, he confirmed, around risk management and business optimization, “but it is the rare exception.”

Yet analytics goes well beyond backward-looking BI reporting, Bitterer said. It is in this area -- predictive analytics, statistical modelling and data mining -- that there continues to be a skills shortage. “I am not a fan of the term data scientist, but that is the type of user required. It takes a combination of analytical capability and subject matter expertise. We see it in pharmaceuticals, with biochemists who understand the data they are looking at.

“Such people are expensive. They don’t grow on trees. But you need these people to get really good results.”

Gartner also predicts a continued struggle between centralised and decentralised modes of designing analytics into organisations.

The firm predicts that by 2013 “BI initiatives will be based on an organisational model that strikes a balance between centralised and decentralised delivery.” The press statement continues: “many BI programmes have departmental roots with analytical resources embedded in the business. This model has worked well in serving departmental needs, but it lacks consistency in terms of data definitions and measures across an entire organisation. Often, the IT organisation has solved this inconsistency problem by establishing a central team to deliver BI. However, such an overly centralised model lacks the agility and familiarity of the decentralised model. A hybrid delivery model enables greater consistency and economies of scale, more autonomy and faster turnaround times.”

Bitterer talked of the centralising “monarchy” of IT and the decentralist “anarchy” of business end users. IT will tend to want to standardise on one vendor. If it is IBM, it is Cognos for BI. If SAP, BusinessObjects. But users want a costly thousand flowers to bloom -- and they want it yesterday, Bitterer said.

Gartner is projecting a hybrid resolution to the conflict. “The middle ground is not easy,” Bitterer said, “but a simplified architecture on the back end and a degree of freedom and variety on the front is required.”

Cloud computing is the realm of the third of the firm’s predictions. “By 2013, every major BI platform vendor will present a cloud offering, but these will account for just 3% of total BI revenue,” Gartner said in the press statement. “Current adoption of ‘cloud BI’ by user organisations lags far behind the expectations of vendors. ... However, companies that have subscribed to a specific cloud application, such as customer relationship management, payroll or help desk service, are more inclined to use BI functionality delivered by their cloud provider.”

Bitterer elaborated that security remains a bugbear for BI in the cloud and said that “big data” poses a bandwidth issue. “The sweet spot may be for midmarket companies. It will grow, but not as fast as vendors would like and have expected.”

Meanwhile, analytics has emerged as the No. 1 technology priority for chief information officers in Gartner’s annual survey, complementing the No. 1 business priority of increasing enterprise growth. The international survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2011 and included 2,335 CIOs, covering 37 industries in 45 countries.

Bitterer said he was happy to see analytics so high up the chart again, as it was in 2005. “It could be down to [CIO interest in] mobile, new devices, location awareness, cloud and social analytics.” And, he added, the imperative in a difficult economy to “do the right thing, not more things right.”


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