People have always communicated insights from data. In World War II, human "computers" stationed in the U.S. would crunch numbers regarding temperature and air density, manually compile the analysis into tables, and then publish and send the results for use in the battlefields, enabling soldiers to better understand how certain conditions affect artillery.
Fast-forward to the beginning of this century, when heavily stacked IT-authored reporting systems pushed out production reports and dashboards to inform employees about the drivers impacting their business (actually, this is still happening today).
In both of these cases, the goal was to arm information consumers with insight so they could do their jobs better. The problem was that it took too many resources ("human computers" = too many people; "IT-authored reporting systems" = too much investment) to produce something (a table or dashboard) that still required skills to create and time to interpret.
What is Modern Business Intelligence?
Abysmal, stagnant adoption rates of the IT-authoring tools, in particular, have prompted the question: isn’t there a better way to disseminate and consume information?
Luckily, we are in the age of Modern Business Intelligence (BI), where many of the processes around data analysis and communication are now automated in response to the demands from a wider range of business users wanting access to interactive styles of analysis and consumable content.
Market share for "Modern Business Intelligence" (ie: Tableau) companies are increasing, while legacy vendors who have not yet mastered these capabilities are struggling to keep up. In order to stay relevant, organizations are looking for ways to modernize their offerings.
Here are some tips to making your BI (or any operational or performance reporting system) “modern.”
1. Make it consumable
New ways of increasing employee and consumer insight from analytic content will be key, or else the system will be replaced. The output must be relevant, understandable, and actionable. This takes shape in the form of automating data storytelling to focus the user on what's most important in the data and what they need to do about it.
2. Make it automated
If users are still manually creating pivot tables, authoring production reports, or interpreting visualizations, it's time to modernize. That does not necessarily mean ripping out the legacy system. It could mean integrating innovative technology, like natural language generation (NLG), into the workflow that automatically transforms data in these systems into insightful content.
3. Make it more than BI
It's more than business intelligence that needs to be modernized. Traditional systems of record (ERP, CRM, etc.) also struggle with user adoption, and as a result, companies and independent software vendors are increasingly integrating interactive analysis and NLG into business processes and applications.
Sleek UI's and interactive forms of analysis are blurring the lines between what makes something an analytics platform vs. a system of record (see Workday’s acquisition of Platfora, for example). Is it B.I.? Is it data discovery? Is it a business application?
Does it really matter?
Rather, the question should be: does this give the employee information they need to do their job better?