Having seen the last 15 years of business intelligence (BI) developments, one unmistakable phenomenon is the hype cycles within this segment. Hype cycles are like tornadoes – they start with a little shake-up in a few intellectual minds and then build up speed and intensity. Eventually, it consumes all of the tech masses in its spate. Everyone from thought-leaders, analysts, bloggers, tech leaders and their followers get swept into an irresistible hype vortex.
Here’s a quick timeline of the hype cycles of enterprise BI through the last 15 years:
2000-2005: BI for the masses
This hype cycle focused on the promising idea that BI should service all levels of an organization. The thought was phrased as from the mailroom to the boardroom. The growing data volumes should be leveraged, democratized and wielded as an asset for the entire organization. Ad hoc reports that can be generated from a meta-data layer by any user help to mask underlying data complexity.
The second major hype cycle included the next generation of graphical reporting, centered on ease of use for the masses. Technical and business users should be able to easily process information, perform what-if analysis, get alerts on their dashboards and be quickly informed through color-coded traffic light and speedometer look-alike graphical widgets.
2010-2014: In-memory Analytics
The notion that in-memory data retention can churn data at the speed of thought and give users instant data analysis from large data volumes was the central idea of the third main hype cycle. It included a set of proprietary data caching technologies (vendor-specific) sold on the idea that they were better alternatives to data warehousing, data marts and traditional (and complex) BI systems.
2014-2017: Self-service BI
The next few years will focus on the idea that business users should be able to seek answers on their own to typical data-driven questions. This is also termed as data discovery – how you connect data discovery software to your data sources and allow business users to discover enlightening answers, which help them in their work. Obviously, we are living through this hype-cycle and my prediction is that like its predecessors, it will begin to settle down in its third year. By 2017 the next hype will begin to take shape. The big question is – what will it be?
The negative impact of these hype cycles is how they leave behind shattered expectations, expensive unused software and include business-users still dealing with their spreadsheets – much like they did in the 90s, except the data volumes now are at a much greater magnitude.
The positive impact of hype cycles is that they leave behind some good technologies in their wake, which often get acquired and absorbed by the few huge companies in the software industry. Fortunes are made by a few, a lot of excitement is created and we all get to enjoy the adrenaline of the rising hype. There is something to look forward to for everyone – industry analysts, bloggers, event planners, tech enthusiasts and BI professionals.