Challenges with Existing BI Platforms and Solutions
For the last few years, Enterprise BI Portal Platforms like SAP Business Objects, MicroStrategy and MS SQL Reporting Services have dominated BI and Analytics platforms. These BI platforms had the following key features and characteristics:
- Development of customized reports on top of the Enterprise Data Warehouse
- The Data Warehouse was a point solution built based on custom reporting needs of the Enterprise
- IT teams of these Enterprises would write a lot of custom code to extract data from various disparate application databases in the Enterprise to create this Date Warehouse
- They would provision these reports for end users on a central collaboration portal provided by the BI platform
- The data security and access control was tightly governed by IT teams
Enterprises faced several challenges with these BI platforms:
- The line of business (LOB) users had to completely rely on IT teams for their reporting and analytics requirements
- The IT team had to translate complex business requirements provided by LOBs to custom reporting and analytics solutions. This led to many implementation gaps, especially for enterprises in niche domains such as life sciences, healthcare, banking, etc.
- With the advent of cloud, enterprises had some data residing on the cloud and some data residing on the premises. The data load solutions provided by these platforms would not be able to manage this problem gracefully.
- Traditional BI vendors tried hard to address these challenges by integrating user-driven data discovery solutions with the rest of their stack.
However, since the overall approach was IT-centric and not user-centric, their solution failed to effectively capitalize on disruption in technologies such as in-memory databases, semantic model and next generation visualization solutions.
Next Generation BI platforms
The likes of ‘Tableau’, the flag bearer of next generation BI platforms, took these challenges head on. They revolutionized Enterprise BI with a paradigm shift to make it user-centric’ instead of IT-centric. They provided interactive and advanced analytics to end users without requiring them to have BI skills. They moved away from a centralized IT-driven approach to a decentralized user-centric approach, thus empowering business users with greater control over visualization and data.
This had to be delivered without sacrificing data security and ensuring appropriate access control. The platforms provided data security controls to the IT teams using governance workflows built at various levels for governed data discovery, granular data provisioning, user based security and application based security.
The key parameters on which enterprises are judging these solutions include:
Intelligent Data Discovery
- End users ability to search, capture, store and promote diverse semantic and traditional meta models
- Ability to create user-defined sets, groups and hierarchies
- Date lineage and data blending from varied data sources, including multi structured data
Interactive Exploration and Visualization
- New interactive visualization controls such as heat and tree maps, scatter plots and geo-spatial views
- Analytics friendly visual controls like gauges and sliders
Platform and Data Administration
- Multiple levels of security at the discovery and provisioning stages with tight user and application level access control
- Managing scale, performance and high availability
Ability to support existing data sources
- Be-spoke or ad-hoc query support
- Re-usable semantic layers to enable users to navigate available data sources
- OLAP support for grouping, slicing/dicing data and ‘what if’ analysis
Mobile and Social Enabling features
- Interactive and published content should be available on Mobile
- Interactive analysis should support native controls and features including camera, location awareness and natural-language query
SDK with APIs
- Ability to plugin analytics in the application workflow using APIs
Analysis of Next Generation BI Platforms used @ Nitor Infotech
This section provides a brief analysis of the ‘strengths’ and ‘weakness’ of next generation platforms used at Nitor Infotech.
Nitor Infotech has also been closely tracking other next generation BI products like Qlik, microstrategy and SAP Lumira (integrated with SAP Business Objects and SAP Hana) with its customers. We will enhance our analysis as we continue to explore newer next generation BI Platforms with our customers.
- Primary Source: Nitor Infotech’s experience in analyzing and implementing these tools
- Other Sources: Websites of various next generation BI platforms, Gartner reports and other publicly available information