I recently had the privilege (not to mention a lot of fun) to participate in a brainstorming session with a large enterprise software vendor and my esteemed colleagues John Rymer, Rob Koplowitz, and Jeffrey Hammond on the topic of low-code app dev. It’s not a well-known fact (but Forrester has been publicizing it for a while and will continue to do so) that many modern enterprise business intelligence (BI) platforms can and are being used as low-code app dev platforms. In addition to building purely analytical apps — what BI platforms have been doing for decades — the following newly introduced BI platform features now also support building translytical applications:

  • Data entry. This requires write-back to BI’s own RDBMS/cube. Enterprise planning platforms — budgeting, forecasting, etc. — have had this capability for years, and now more and more BI tools are supporting this feature.
  • Transaction processing. This requires write-back to transactional (ERP and CRM) applications. BI vendor capabilities vary in this area.
  • Workflow orchestration. Not to be confused with data ingestion/processing orchestration, this feature is necessary to support typical application workflow with conditional steps such as approvals, sign-offs, and others (requiring if/then/else logic). This is relatively new to BI platforms, but several leading vendors are beginning to introduce this capability.

Why is this so important? Translytical applications are a key component in Forrester’s system-of-insights best practices, where insights applications are not built as an afterthought but rather as a first step — first decide what insights your business needs, then figure out where and how to get the data to support it. This is a reverse of an earlier-generation approach where we built data entry/transaction processing apps and only then decided how to get insights from them.

What does this mean? A few things:

  • Awareness. Pro and citizen developers need to be aware that they may not need to look any further than their existing BI platform to develop translytical applications.
  • Increased number of stakeholders. BI has already gone through a transformation in that it’s no longer business vs. IT in terms of ownership and leadership. Organizations reporting to CDOs, CAOs, chief digital officers, heads of product, etc. etc. etc. are also developing analytical and translytical applications. App dev and low-code app dev pros now need to deal with the same, more diverse community coexistence and potential overlaps.
  • Governance. BI has already gone through a few cycles of IT owning BI, which resulted in low agility, business owning BI (which resulted in lack of governance), and having to find a perfect middle ground between agility and control. Forrester describes that middle ground as BI governance, where business insights pros — AKA citizen developers in the low-code app dev world — develop most of the BI apps, but IT/data pros govern by monitoring and adjusting. But similar best practices do not exist in developing systems of automation, systems of record, and systems of engagement yet. Professional app dev communities will have to find the same happy medium to deal with the increasing number of citizen developers using BI and other low-code app dev platforms.

Watch for our upcoming research on what else (in addition to BI and low-code app dev) you can use your enterprise BI platform for.