It’s that time of year again, when everyone starts asking for the BI predictions for next year. Good news: We did a pretty good job on the last year’s predictions, and so there’re only a few reasons to update them. Therefore this year we’ll do the predictions in the following manner: base 2013’s predictions mostly on our one-year-old 2012 ones and then use the latest results from Forrester’s Forrsights surveys on BI and big data (as well as other Forrester research from the past year) to confirm or disprove the 2012 predictions and whether they still apply to 2013. If there’s room to add new ones (stay tuned), we’ll do so. So here we go:

#1 (From 2012 prediction #1). The best tool for each BI job trumps IT standards. BI has traditionally been ruled by overinsistence on enterprisewide standards and a single version of the truth. These will continue to be important, but they won’t be the Holy Grail. A purely standards-based approach to addressing most current business requirements is neither flexible nor agile enough to react and adapt to ever-changing information requirements. In 2012 (and now in 2013), expect IT to start embracing agile BI tools, such as ones based on flexible in-memory models, in addition to enterprise-grade BI tools and standards. For information workers who need information anytime and anywhere, agility concerns will trump standards.

  • Verdict. Thumbs up for 2013.
  • Numerous studies (including our own) confirm over and over again that most enterprises use several BI platforms.

From 2012 prediction #2. A “multiple BI tool” strategy is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Multiple BI tools have been spreading like wildfire, especially in large enterprises, over the past 10 years. But rather than fighting that trend, organizations now realize that consolidation and centralization are no panacea. Currently, Forrester client inquiries about how to live with multiple BI tools far exceed inquiries about platform consolidation. Why? There is simply no one vendor that provides all of the key agile BI capabilities. And this is unlikely to happen in the near future, so the need for multiple BI tools will be a pragmatic reality well into 2012 (and now into 2013).

  • Verdict: Thumbs up for 2013.
  • This one makes the same point as 2012’s prediction #1, so we’ll merge them into one 2013 prediction.

#2 (From 2012 prediction #3). Ready or not, information workers will demand more BI control. The current BI approach — a never-ending stream of business requests that IT cannot keep up with — has become unsustainable. Information workers get frustrated with the time lag between when they make requests and when IT fulfills those requests, so they demand more control over BI. End user self-service features of BI tools, such as semantic layers and search capabilities, will become increasingly critical when selecting and deploying BI tools and solutions.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up for 2013.
  • Indeed, business priorities will be a bigger driver of BI in 2013 than IT priorities. Recent Forrsights BI and big data surveys show that business drivers like “improve business planning”, “gain an overall competitive advantage”, “improve customer interaction and satisfaction” and “make better-informed business decisions” are at the top of the BI drivers list. IT priorities take a back seat.

#3 (From 2012 prediction #4). BI tools that support the right amount of managed end user self-service will become popular. Self-service BI allows casual and power BI users to fulfill the majority of their own requirements, such as ad hoc queries and exploration of entity relationships, without IT hindering business processes. But it’s not that simple. It’s like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears: No management or control is unacceptable, but too much control will also become less and less popular. Organizations need to find just the right amount of control that balances the needs of end users and IT. The winning solution will combine the flexibility and agility that self-service brings with behind-the-scenes monitoring and adjustments that improve performance.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up for 2013.
  • Many of the leading BI vendors released products that allow business users to create their own BI apps, publish those apps to servers, and let IT monitor and manage business user-created, server-based BI apps.

#4 (From 2012 prediction # 5). Mobility is no longer a “nice to have” — it will become the new BI mantra. Currently, mobile BI adoption is behind the curve compared with other enterprise mobile applications. This is mainly due to the perceived lack of specific business use cases and tangible ROI. But mobile BI caught up in 2012, will continue to progress in 2013, and will eventually become the norm. Why? Information workers can no longer wait to make decisions until they “get back to the office” — that may be too late. Forrester expects that, as BI goes mobile, certain robust mobile features will become the norm: multiple visual query methods, leverage of GPS signals for geolocation and geospatial analytics, animated displays, sensor-based queries, and integration with other enterprise mobile ERP applications.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up in 2013.
  • Our recent Forrsights BI and big data surveys show that 24% of enterprises already use or are piloting mobile BI applications and a further 37% are considering mobile BI for near-term implementations.

#5 (From 2012 prediction #6). Cloud BI will slowly and steadily chip away at on-premises implementations. Cloud BI solutions remain immature, and heavy integration and customization of enterprise BI platforms, tools, and applications will not go away anytime soon. But the story of cloud BI isn’t all bad news. Interest in cloud BI solutions certainly exists, due in part to the need to lessen the burden on internal IT resources and the desire for elasticity and low initial investment cost. This won’t happen overnight, but in the coming years Forrester expects the cloud BI market to continue expanding as leading BI vendors get in the game, blurring the lines between on-premises and cloud deployments.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up in 2013.
  • Our recent Forrsights BI and big data surveys show that only 1% to 2% (depending on whether it’s an enterprise, environmental, or specific use case BI scenario) of enterprises have fully moved their BI platforms and apps to the cloud and another 3% to 4% plan to do so within two years.
  • However, 8% to 11% plan to complement their on-premises BI with cloud BI within a year, and a further 15% to 20% plan to do so within two years.

#6 (From 2012 prediction #7). BI-specific DBMSes will gain popularity. Alternative database management system (DBMS) engines architected specifically for agile BI will emerge as one of the key fundamental agile BI technologies that BI pros should closely evaluate and consider. These specialized, BI-specific DBMS databases — those that are designed specifically for BI reporting and analysis — currently have lower adoption rates when compared with their bigger, older, more versatile, jack-of-all-trades RDBMS cousins. But don’t expect these low adoption rates to continue; BI-specific DBMSes started to become mainstream in 2012 and the trend will continue in 2013. Forrester expects that more than 20% of all BI applications will be based on this technology within the next two years.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up for 2013.
  • Our recent Forrsights BI and big data surveys show that 5% to 34% of enterprises are using at least one the following NoSQL and BI-specific DBMSes (depending on the DBMS type): inverted index, RDF, triple store, graph, Hadoop Hive, HBase, Cassandra, associative index, distributed NoSQL databases, hybrid row-based and columnar, columnar, in-memory, object-oriented, XML databases, and hierarchical databases. A further 5% to 7% plan adoption within a year.

#7 (From 2012 prediction # 8). Big data will move out of silos and into enterprise IT. The amount of data available is growing faster than enterprises’ ability to deal with it. But big data approaches — techniques and technologies that make handling data at extreme scales affordable — can transform this data into insights. Big data will disrupt the data management landscape by changing fundamental notions about data governance and IT delivery, where a single version of the truth ceases to be absolute and becomes relative and contextual. While big data remains for many an unrealized ideal, IT started taking big data initiatives more seriously in 2012 and will continue to do so in 2013. Why? Business is going to demand that data be better harnessed in more cost-effective ways, as traditional BI is often costly and without a clearly tangible ROI. As the idea catches on, big data will start to move out of silos and into enterprise IT, which will need to learn how to manage it.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up for 2013.
  • Our recent Forrsights BI and big data surveys show that 44% of big data initiatives run in close integration/coordination with the enterprise BI and another 35% with some coordination.

#8 (From 2012 prediction #9). Data exploration will become the new bread and butter of BI suites. Schema-driven BI applications based on a relational data model lockdown severely limit what can be analyzed and reported. Organizations must create these applications specifically for the business questions at hand in order to navigate the data effectively. This isn’t sustainable, as one can never foresee every single question that will ever be asked of a model-driven BI application and prebuild that logic into data models. Information workers will demand the ability to explore data without preconceived notions, specific questions, or fixed, prebuilt data models in mind. Put simply, the business demands the flexibility to explore data on its own terms — so expect solutions that support exploration and freeform information discovery to become the new bread and butter of BI suites.

  • Verdict: Thumbs up for 2013.
  • The huge popularity of in-memory BI applications allows for data discovery and exploration on relatively small data sets (less than a few hundred gigabytes).
  • Hadoop and Hadoop-like platforms allow for data discovery and exploration on large data sets, with few practical limitations (infinite linear scalability).

From 2012 prediction #10: BI will integrate with the information workplace (IW). IWs bring together multiple technologies in a seamless, contextual user experience that allows your information workers easy access to the information they need. IWs will drive the next generation of worker efficiency, and business process pros need to consider BI within this context. Many BI vendors claim that self-service functionality is virtually guaranteed by virtue of tight integration with desktop-based office tools like spreadsheet, presentation, and word processing software. But that’s not nearly enough. BI users will start demanding, and vendors will start delivering, BI tools integrated with all parts of the IW — such as email, search, portals, collaboration platforms, and social communities — rather than just Excel.

  • Verdict: Thumbs down for 2013.
  • This is a big puzzle to us. In a few isolated cases where we do see BI tightly integrated with email or search, business users give such applications rave reviews. But we do not see this requirement at the top of anyone’s priority lists. We’ll keep an eye on this one throughout 2013.

And now . . . drumroll, please . . . two brand-new predictions for 2013:

#9 An enterprise “tax” on top-down BI initiatives will become more popular. Let’s consider two popular approaches to building BI environments and applications, and offer an alternative, hybrid approach:

  • Bottom-up/horizontal BI architecture and approach (“Build a DW and they will come.”)
    • Pros:
      • Unified enterprise analytical data architecture
      • Reusable from any BI tool/application
      • Gets you closer to single version of the truth
    • Cons:
      • Takes too long
      • Is outdated even before it’s rolled out
      • Costs too much
      • No proven, tangible ROI
      • Disconnected from business requirements
      • Low success rate
  • Top-down approaches (get the business requirements for a specific business use case and implement them):
    • Pros:
      • Fast implementation
      • High success rate
    • Cons:
      • Proliferates data/information silos
      • May create multiple redundant or overlapping efforts and applications
      • Does not get you closer to single version of the truth
  • We are proposing a hybrid approach, aka “a tax on BI”. Put the emphasis and priorities on top-down approaches. However, charge an x% “tax” on every top-down project and use that “tax” to build up strategic architecture (data warehouse, etc.) incrementally. I’m really curious to see if this approach becomes more popular in 2013.

#10 Hadoop-based BI applications will start encroaching on mission-critical territory. Given the current state of Hadoop software (immature at best functionality that we have come to expect from any DBMS environment, like transactional controls, multiphase commits, and rollbacks of incomplete transactions), most Hadoop-based BI implementations are not being used for mission-critical applications. We are, however, beginning to see a few glimpses that this may change in the near future. We see a few companies that are willing to invest in custom coding that addresses current Hadoop limitations in order to achieve long-term cost savings from eliminating commercial software license and support costs and eliminating the reliance on proprietary hardware. We currently know of only a handful of such cases but expect to see more in 2013. Please drop me a note if you know of a Hadoop-based BI application that falls under this mission-critical category.