Will big data hype dampen BI growth

by Sohini Bagchi    Jun 07, 2013

big data bi

Big data is certainly becoming the industry buzzword. However, the hype that this technology has created over the past couple of months has resulted in a slowed global business spending on business intelligence (BI) software and other analytics tool. After several years of double-digit expansion, which reached 17 percent in 2011 over 2010, the growth in investment in business intelligence and analytics apps fell back to 6.8 per cent for 2012 over the previous year, says a recent Gartner report.

Gartner researchers believe there has been a lot of confusion around the term ‘Big Data’ even though it has managed to create a strong hype. Unfortunately, terms such as big data, BI and analytics often puzzled the enterprise buyer. This in turn had a negative impact on market growth. However, in the long run, the research firm notes that big data is likely to have a beneficial effect on investment patterns and growth.

The big data-BI tussle

There are several reasons for the popularity of big data over the traditional BI and analytics tools. Many believe that BI follows a top-down approach, putting data in the hands of executives and managers who are looking to track their businesses on a wider scale. Big Data, on the other hand follows a bottom-up approach. It allows enterprises to perform in-depth analysis for real-time decision-making, if harnessed properly.

Moreover, Anirban Dey, Managing Director at SAP Labs India notes that while the scope of traditional BI is limited to structured data that will be cramped in the data warehouse, the reality of business today is that the majority of the data is unstructured. These data sets derived from videos, social media, image files and others would not be anticipated by BI.

Does that mean, BI will have to make an exit with the arrival of big data?

“Not really!” asserts Debra Logan, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. Despite the buzz, adoption of big data among businesses remains low because most organizations do not understand how to leverage it. She mentions in a recent report that one of the main barriers to asking the right questions of big data is a lack of expertise and a shortage of data scientists. Most businesses still struggle to figure out what data to be extracted from the massive set to add value to business.

Nevetheless, Big Data, no matter how ‘confusing’ is no longer a tool confined to behemoths like Google and Amazon. In some enterprises it is in the exploratory phase right now and few have begun to reap benefits. However, it has immense potential to eclipse its predecessors and for BI to keep going and increase its uptake, it has to come out of its traditional demeanor and take a fresh approach to extracting business value from data at a completely new scale.

Innovations around BI

Currently the traditional BI is revamping its looks and seeking innovative ways to sustain in the marketplace. To give a fresh approach to BI, currently leading vendors such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, SAS and Microsoft are innovating around a number of tools that can offer them business advantage. For example, BI and analytics consultant Soumitra Bhattacharya observes that the next-generation dashboards, a key BI interface, already used by several large and midsized companies. These dashboards keep businesses focused on the right metrics such as in-memory processing, mashables, KPIs, filtered search, mobile that allows employees take efficient decisions.

Likewise, Gartner researchers also point out that cloud-based buying is also starting to make an imprint on the radar, showing substantial growth in the BI segments in the coming months.

While the issues around big data and BI remain debatable, some analysts believe that instead of pitting the two technologies against each other, businesses can borrow the best aspects from traditional and cloud BI and Big Data solutions, leveraging on structured data to optimize business strategy and also the massive volumes of unstructured data from various sources to make real time business decision, will take data management to the next level and can offer tremendous business value.