In the spirit of the New Year I thought I would make some predictions on what I think will happen in the Business Intelligence space in 2011. Companies have an overwhelming amount of data to mine, and with maturing BI tools, cheap processing power and low cost storage aplenty it should allow companies to quickly advance their analytical capabilities in the coming year.

BI Gets Social

Now that the masses have embraced social media 2011 is the year for corporate America to start mining all this rich customer data that is freely available. Companies like Sysomos and Attensity provide SaaS solutions to allow companies to mine content from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace. Look for the large BI vendors to take notice and add features to integrate this data or even make an acquisition of one of the niche social media analytics companies.

In addition to the integration of public social media data, the BI vendors are including social media capabilities within their own products. For example, IBM Cognos 10 allows users to add comments to reports and even enrich existing reports with additional data. These new features empower users to get more involved in data, share analysis and even enrich and republish reports to the enterprise. Similar to the adoption of corporate instant messaging in the late 90’s the comfort level people have gained the last several years with public social media will find traction within BI areas of the corporate intranet in 2011.

Outlook for 2011: Partly Cloudy

2010 brought the cloud to life, with organizations like the US Federal Government and Netflix embracing cloud technologies. I see the race to put BI in the cloud heating up in 2011. The race to the cloud starts with having cloud ready BI tools available to provision in the cloud. This ability came to the BI mega vendor in 2010 with the launch of IBM Cognos on the cloud. Microsoft is also working towards a holistic BI cloud offering with the SQL Azure platform. I expect to see an SQL Azure reporting tool release soon. Many companies will test the waters in 2011 with development and test environments on the cloud. It will not be until 2012 that true production BI application adoption will start in earnest.

Going Mobile

2010 also brought us the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy tablets, providing devices capable of delivering high quality, usable mobile analytics. While mobile BI on smart phones will have a place, I think tablet computers will truly bring BI out to users in the field. In 2010, all the major vendors either launched or optimized their mobile BI solution for tablet computers. The clear leader in this space is MicroStrategy, with a very easy to use and polished looking iPad app. While I like the ease of use of the app based solution, Cognos went with a web based delivery optimized for mobile technologies giving them greater flexibility to easily support new devices. Interestingly enough, Microsoft does not yet have an answer to these offerings by SAP, IBM and MicroStrategy. I suspect now that Windows Phone 7 has launched this will change quickly; look for Microsoft to have an answer by the end of the year. As much attention as mobile BI gets, I don’t see a huge business case for most companies to implement and I believe it will be several more years before it gains wide adoption.

Making it Fast and Easy

Pushing BI to the business with user friendly tools continues to be a top priority for organizations. Products like QlikView are helping reduce the amount of IT time needed and putting multi dimensional analysis squarely in the hands of end users. I see this trend continuing in 2011 with companies like QlikTech and Tableau disrupting the market.

Other BI agenda items companies will try to tackle in 2011 include the on going challenge of mining unstructured data, increased focus on visualization and the need for real time analytics. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on these topics in future posts.