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What Makes Best-in-Class BI Companies So Special?

Tom Hoblitzell | | December 13, 2018

Every data-driven company is looking for the “silver bullet” that will help them get more value from their enterprise data and beat their business rivals. Fortunately, there’s little need these days for guesswork when it comes to business intelligence and analytics. You can get a great deal of insight just from reading studies such as the Business Application Research Center (BARC)’s BI Trend Monitor 2018 survey.

According to the survey, both top-performing companies and laggards have similar judgments about the importance of certain trends: for example, agile BI development, cloud BI, and data governance. However, there are also a number of topics that top performers consider to be of unusually high importance..

In this blog post, we’ll discuss three of the top BI trends that distinguish best-in-class companies from their competitors, and why each one is so crucial to the success of your business intelligence and analytics program.

1. Collaboration

Collaboration is an essential BI feature in order to improve user adoption across the enterprise and break down problems such as data silos. However, not all organizations can agree on what exactly collaboration means within a BI solution.

“Classic” collaboration functionality for discussions – such as chatrooms, comments, tags, and forums – should be part of any robust BI software. However, modern BI solutions also include advanced collaboration features such as “data storytelling”. Instead of using PowerPoint presentations, data storytelling features allow users to analyze data, create dashboards and infographics, and use these visuals to construct a narrative or argument that even non-technical folks can understand.

Perhaps not surprisingly, business users tend to believe that collaboration is more important than IT users do, according to the BARC survey. Globally, companies in South and North America are most likely to believe in the importance of collaboration, while European companies trail behind.

2. Mobile BI/Analytics

224 million people in the United States own a smartphone, which makes BI platforms with mobile functionality an obvious preferred choice. Mobile-enabled BI software allows users to work at the most convenient times and places for them. 28 percent of BI users now say that their software is mobile-friendly, up from 16 percent in 2012.

According to BARC, “the most successful mobile deployments are those in which a mobile strategy has already been devised”. Simply copying existing features and interfaces into a mobile application is a recipe for failure unless you work to optimize them for mobile devices.

In addition, BARC notes that there are still relatively few options for BI platforms that are both truly mobile-friendly and easy to use. This is likely why the BARC survey found that IT and business users both view mobile BI as less important than the BI vendors themselves do.

3. External/Open Data

Companies that are truly data-driven aren’t able to satisfy their hunger for information with just internal sources. Instead, they also turn to external databases that can dramatically enhance their business insights. For example, a glass manufacturer might look at property crime statistics in order to determine which neighborhoods might have the most broken windows (and therefore the most need for their services).

Datasets on their own are highly valuable, but they can be a force multiplier when combined with other sources of data. Best-in-class performers understand this fact and look to accumulate even more information: social media posts, location data, market data, weather patterns, and more.

Final Thoughts

Collaboration, mobile BI, and external data are the three trends for 2018 that most set best-in-class businesses apart. While adopting these three features in your next BI solution is no guarantee that you’ll go straight to the head of the pack, it’s a good way to stay ahead of the curve.

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