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Predictions, Predictions: It’s BI’s time of year in the cloud

As the year comes to an end, making predictions about the year(s) to come is one of everyone’s favorite pastimes and/or guilty pleasures. Even though i may be somewhat late to join, i got a little bit of inspiration from some of the people, companies and topics that i have worked with in 2013. So here’s a bit of looking back to look forward for a sneak peak at what 2014 might bring for Agile BI and the cloud. Many thanks to Rene Buest, Paul Miller, and Tableau Software for being such a pleasure to work with and for providing such insightful predictions. Do yourselves a favor and check them out – it will even help you figure out my own predictions 🙂

1. The end of data scientists?

To start things off with a bit of controversy: Prediction #1 in Tableau’s list states that “familiarity with data analysis becomes part of the skill set of ordinary business users, not experts with “analyst” in their titles”. This definitely rings true – there is a surge of interest in the associated skills, so what used to be an “exotic” skill set is now being approached by a much wider audience. But, be warned – becoming a data scientist is no no easy feat.

I also see a trend towards domain-specific, value-add analytic applications hitting the mainstream (Gooddata’s bashes are a prime example of that), which will eventually enable business users to focus on their task at hand and not so much on hard-core data science skills.

So, i do not think data scientists are going away – instead, i think their expertise is going to be distilled in products that help business users reap the benefits without the hassle.

2. Mobile BI becomes the new normal for leading edge organizations

Again, quoting Tableau (Prediction #8): “For leading-edge organizations, mobile business intelligence becomes the primary experience, as business users demand access to information within the natural flow of their day, not back at their desks”. Makes sense, doesn’t it? At least when seen in that context – i doubt Mobile BI will become mainstream in the coming year. Still, companies that specialize in Mobile BI such as RoamBI or PushBI and companies that have a solid offering there such as Tableau are definitely well positioned to dominate this market segment when it becomes mainstream – which will probably not take too long.

However, in addition to supporting many distribution channels, most notably web and mobile/tablet, equally important is the extent to which channel capabilities are leveraged. Typically, the web supports interaction via instrumented manipulation (standard graphical user interface controls such as radio buttons, checklists etc) while mobile/tablet devices support visual manipulation (manipulating visual objects with a mouse cursor by directly pointing, clicking, selecting, dragging, dropping, or lassoing). So it’s not only about going mobile, it’s also about how much of a visual manipulation interaction you can support.

3. Agile BI extends its lead

Yes, this is a verbatim copy of Prediction #4 in Tableu’s list. It makes sense, in a “you heard it here first” kind of way, as this is basically the bottomline of the the Agile BI report recently published by Linked Data Orchestration via Gigaom, underwritten by Tableau.

So, if you want to see why Advanced visualization, Data source agility, Domain specific knowledge, Cloud support and Distribution channel agility are the main factors that shape the Agile BI landscape, you know where to look.

4. The dust in the Cloud won’t settle..so meta-cloud apps will continue to thrive

This is a recurring topic really, and both Rene and Paul were quick to point this out: The AWS vs. OpenStack vs. CloudStack vs. (younameit) API battle will not end anytime soon – although i would not go as far as to say it will NEVER end.

Still, for the time being we must all learn to live with it. And in fact, some will even profit from it – what i like to call meta-cloud applications: applications that provide services such as hybrid and multi-provider cloud management and monitoring. Think RightScale, Scalr and the like.

5. G-Cloud as an enabler for public administration transformation

Last but not least, a topic that was not mentioned in any of the prediction lists that inspired me – i guess it’s not in their radar. The opportunity for the cloud to act as a catalyst for public sector reorganization is something we briefly mentioned during the “Future of the Cloud in Europe” webinar. It’s something that i see as an undercurrent in Greece, but my antennas are picking up signs of this in other peripheral EU countries as well (while it would seem perfectly plausible that this is the case elsewhere too).

In short, this is about public administrations using cloud infrastructure and everything that goes with it -procurement and roll-out efficiency, best practice automation and wide scale institutional adoption- as a leverage for shaping leaner and more efficient organizations and cutting down operational costs. And God knows this is needed now more than ever!

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