Big data – the Holy Grail of business intelligence (BI)? Big data technologies certainly hold the promise of closing the gap between the data that’s available in your organization, and the ability to make that data available to those who need it, when they need it. But it’s about more than just technology: you also need the skills and processes in place to ensure that those technologies are exploited to best effect. Most importantly, application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals must make sure that their BI and big data initiatives don’t move forward on parallel tracks, resulting in yet more data silos. The real value lies in combining existing BI and analytics capabilities with new big data technologies and techniques, and this is why AD&D pros involved with BI and analytics should focus on how these new capabilities can augment and extend the existing environment. Two key areas of focus for 2015 should be:

Advanced analytics. Along with data exploration and data wrangling, predictive analytics is on its way to becoming a key capability in a broad BI suite. This goes hand in hand with increasing demand: Forrester’s 2014 global data and analytics survey found that 31%  of respondents state they have predictive analytics platforms and applications in production (compared with 21% in 2012), with another 24% planning to do so. Leading BI vendors are either a) building predictive capabilities organically, b) acquiring or integrating third-party predictive software,  or c) integrating open source R routines. With BI and advanced analytics becoming increasingly inseparable, the task for AD&D pros is not only to keep up with these developments, but conducting a deep dive into what is really being delivered by such integrated capabilities. This applies to predictive analytics as well as text analytics, natural language processing and geospatial features: vendor claims don’t necessarily match actual capabilities.

Embedded BI. Integrating reports and analytic content into other applications has been around for a long time. What’s new is the increasing wealth and relevance of data that can be unlocked using big data technologies and techniques. This goes hand in hand with the desire to put data discovery and advanced analytics tools into the hands of those who need them, in a way that’s seamless and transparent. In other words, customers shouldn’t even realize they’re interacting with a BI tool. And let’s be clear: that customer can be another business (e.g., analyzing their payroll data), it can be the consumer (e.g., interacting with a bank or payment card statement), or it can be your employees (e.g., having BI content available from within the CRM system). AD&D pros must be prepared to support a variety of scenarios, and must take integration capabilities (such as APIs, web services, etc) into account when assessing their current and future BI environment.

For more comments on key developments in BI in 2015, read Boris Evelson’s blog post. If you’re a Forrester client, you can learn more about the convergence of BI and Big Data in our Predictions 2015 report. You can also view the entire list of Predictions 2015 reports Forrester will publish this month.