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Pervasive BI and Analytics: Are We There Yet?

by Cindi Howson  |  August 2, 2017  |  12 Comments

Based on our just published survey note, BI and analytics adoption has nudged up to about 32% of employees in an organization. Are you a glass-half-full person who thinks this is progress, or glass-half- empty person who sees we have so much work to do?

Half-Full Or Half-Empty

BI adoption is a metric I have been tracking for a decade, back to the first edition of my Successful Business Intelligence book, and frankly, progress seems slow to me. With all the efforts to modernize BI portfolios, bringing self-service and easier-to-use tools to business users, I had hoped for better results. In asking customers about specific BI tools in the Magic Quadrant, BI adoption is only at 21% of employees; basically flat for a decade.

What’s going on here?  For data-driven businesses, is this progress? How can “data be the new oil” if only a minority of workers have access to it?

On twitter, one industry thought leader asked me, how much BI is enough? Maybe 21% to 32% is the total addressable market, saturated?  I disagree. We have seen organizations that are truly data driven where BI and analytics adoption is well over 50% and closer to 100%. This is not to say that all employees are authoring their own queries from scratch. That is not the goal of pervasive BI. It’s really about empowering users to have data where, when, and how they need it. For some, that’s a dashboard, for others, it’s a mobile app.  New technologies – whether through BI search/NLP or chat bots – also enable less sophisticated users to query data; even though it may not feel like it.  (See more on these trends in the just-published Hype Cycle.)

I think part of our challenge as industry is that we keep responding to those users who shout the loudest; so we focus on enabling the power users more than empowering the masses. Also, we are absolutely drowning in data. New data sources and new storage approaches often trump the need to bring in more users. BI and analytic teams can barely keep up with the demand for, well, everything: more data, new tools, modify this report, migrate a source system … everything! We all need to work smarter, but we also need to keep the big picture in mind and focus on the highest value opportunities.

We offer more insights and recommendations on how to improve BI and analytics adoption in the full note.

Let me know what you think:  how much BI is enough? Are we making progress?

Regards,

Cindi Howson

Category: big-data  business-analytics  business-intelligence  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Pervasive BI and Analytics: Are We There Yet?


  1. Gene Tange says:

    Cindi, I believe we are making progress though like you it is slower than expected. I believe one reason is the focus seems to be on platforms and technology versus outcomes. I believe it is just a matter of time when the “how” becomes less important that the “what”. This will also be indicated by the transition of data scientist leading the function to business people with a passion around improving outcomes.

    • Cindi Howson says:

      Hi, Gene, Yes, agree totally. We need to focus more on business outcomes. That was one of the key themes of the 2016 BI summit – and our note “Five Ways to Evolve Traditional Approaches to Data and Analytics — Gartner Keynote Insights”. We do see in our inquiries still that there is not enough focus on the business value of BI and analytics. The shift to business driven analytics (vs IT driven and reactive or bottoms up) as well as the emerging role of the CDO should help with this. Regards, Cindi

  2. Arnaud Meunier says:

    BI adoption is definitely if the organization has a clear strategy to leverage data.
    Otherwise data will be there, but will not be used many.
    That does not allow data to be used at any level, even by users without technical expertise, but it limits it to key individuals.
    NLP and BI search is indeed one of the key to free data from organizational barriers, though investment has to be made by organizations.

  3. Indra. ghosh says:

    Indeed there is a steady increase in the number of data driven organizations. Any new startups will have data and bi the core of their business decisions making.

  4. Dan Graham says:

    We’ve heard chanting about pervasive BI and other such phrases for 15 years. It will never happen nor should it. I don’t know whether 50% or more using BI and analytics is the right number. I do believe 1000s of small analytic decisions add up. Someone can make an argument for the janitor, the WalMart greeter, hamburger flippers, and other grape harvesters to use pervasive BI. But there are diminishing returns when saying “everybody should use some kind of analytics.”

    Meanwhile, automated AI is going to remove the need for people to even look at analytic results.

    The goal is not 100% of employees using BI/analytics. That’s a vendor POV. The goal is a business outcome with a strong, positive ROI.

    How much BI is enough? About 60-75% of employees should have an analytic service delivered to them. Are we making progress? I think start-up fever and NoSQL hype has set us back. We hear 50% less analysis and press on business value from end users than a decade ago. You mention power users but all the media articles are about data scientists who are a small fraction of employees (like 1000 to 1).

    Great blog. Provocative. Always been a fan. Cheers

    • Cindi Howson says:

      Thanks, Dan, I do agree it has to be business outcome driven. So part of this is empowering the workers with data to control the outcomes and metrics, in both the big ways and little ways. I don’t think pervasive BI has necessarily been vendor driven hype. Frankly, it’s something I’ve been pushing as I’ve seen the art of the possible and high adoption rates in data driven companies. Arguably, with your example, I certainly would prioritize a store manager and sales clerks as having a higher priority than say, the janitor. But once those people are empowered, even the store janitor could benefit from BI as some stores to rate cleanliness as part of satisfaction. Who gets to see those satisfaction scores today and how? Probably not the single person who can most influence them, but imagine if he or she did get an alert on their smartphone with a satisfaction score that compared them to other janitors / other stores. Lastly, regarding your comment on start up fever, no SQL setting us back: I think this gets back to the whole challenge of how analytic teams prioritize initiatives. it’s fun to play with the new stuff, and for sure, demands for more data, stored more cheaply to seem more often to get prioritized ahead of putting BI and analytics in the hands of the masses. Thanks for reading and debating :)! Regards, Cindi

  5. Carol Mazaris says:

    If there is no real, well communicated BI Strategy the adoption rate will not change. We see senior managers seemingly overcome by inertia when it gets to defining a strategy and then staying committed to it. So frustrating!!

  6. Daisy Nosh says:

    Well said..!!
    Good points to mark on.
    Thank you

  7. Hi Cindi,

    Great stuff, as always. As to your question ‘how much BI is enough?’ I’d argue that as long as it adds business value you can’t get enough of it :-) I agree with Dan Graham’s remarks but would like to add a question here: are there any numbers about the effect of BI pervasiveness on measurable outcomes like profitability (-growth), employee and customer satisfaction, new product time to market, etc. etc? Or at least a correlation between the two? Are organizations who have a successful data strategy and a > 75% BI adoption rate more successful than the ones with < 25%? Could this also be industry specific? Looking forward to your thoughts on this!

    best, Jos

    • Cindi Howson says:

      Hi, Jos, yes, the note does show the correlation between BI adoption rate and business impact – for some business impact is revenue improvement, for others it’s operating efficiency. thank you for reading and commenting!
      Regards,
      Cindi

  8. The glass is full with 32% water and 68% air. :-)

    I do like your point that we listen to those who shout the loudest, rather than those who may actually most need our help.

    My concern is this … Looking at the market in aggregate, we might indeed agree that 32% adoption leaves room for growth. (Although “room for improvement” begs the question.)

    Still, this does not help any individual enterprise know whether it’s own rate of adoption is appropriate or not.

    So how do we use these aggregate market numbers to inform the decisions of those formulating BI strategy on the ground? We don’t.

    Perhaps the rate of BI adoption is really most closely correlated with the span of control of managers in an organization.

    In other words, perhaps the low adoption of “decision support” software(still my preferred term) actually reflects the limited de-centralization of decision making in enterprises, with software adoption just a secondary effect.

    We may have bigger problems to fix than BI!

    It’s a great discussion to have.

    Donald

    • Cindi Howson says:

      All good points, Donald. In part, this is why I would always look at potential BI users vs actual. The “potential” becomes, “what percentage of employees make decisions that could be data driven?” I’d also say, “what percentage of employees are metrics driven?” Organizations should work to close that gap. At Gartner, we are very metrics and data driven. I wish I could reveal our percentage adoption, but I suspect I am not allowed. I will just say, it’s way higher than the industry average. We do have a long way to go, and I do think we have made some modest progress since I last ran this survey. It seems too that we are perhaps in the midst of a perfect storm where pervasive analytics and BI really may be poised to take flight. I hope so. Regards, Cindi



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