Get the Picture: Visual Tools Make BI More Accessible

Ann All

Ever seen an annual report without a pie graph? Me either. That's because pretty much every company in the world buys into the idea of using visuals to break up reams of dry data.


Despite this, spreadsheets -- not an especially compelling interface --remain the dominant format for serving up business intelligence data. But that picture could be changing. Gartner, among others, is predicting that predictive modeling and visual solutions such as dashboards will help usher in a new era http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/tve/?p=253of BI tools.


A vendor interviewed in an internetnews.com story says that such tools facilitate faster and more effective decision-making. At the very least, they make it easier to spot broad patterns and trends. That's becoming a necessity as companies collect rapidly growing piles of data -- at least some of which likely contain competitive insights.


The move toward visual tools is part of a broader effort to win more users by incorporating technologies that have won favor among consumers -- such as search and collaboration -- into BI tools. Interactive visualization technology will become a common front-end to BI applications over the next two years, predicts Gartner in this Computerworld story.


While this trend seems largely positive, since companies are clamoring for BI tools that "non-experts" can use, Gartner warns that IT should take steps to avoid an unchecked proliferation of these tools. First, IT must realize that they will likely make their way into the enterprise, whether or not they are officially sanctioned. Writes Gartner:

The reality is that central IT has very little power to prevent business units (and users) from adopting these technologies.

Three more specific suggestions from Gartner:

  • When possible, incorporate the new technologies into the standard BI architecture.
  • Clearly communicate to users which applications are acceptable for central business reports.
  • Create a comprehensive inventory of BI applications, with clearly defined owners and use cases.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 4, 2008 6:12 PM Bill Bill  says:
One way we've managed to prevent the proliferation of unauthorized BI tools across the enterprise, is by carefully gating access to the data warehouse and data marts. Typical scenario is that a vendor manages to demo their product for a business user(s). Business user gets tremendously excited, maybe even buys a few licenses. Business user then engages IT to say, "look, I just bought this new tool, all you have to do is 'hook it up' to the data and I won't EVER bother you again."At that point it's IT's job to break the bad news that, "sorry, we already have standard BI tools that have been thoroughly tested, architected and deployed. You can't use that one."It's been pretty effective. Even at company of over 60k users. Reply

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