Advanced data visualization is based on the fact that 70% of the human sensory receptors are dedicated to vision while the other four senses share the remaining 30%. In addition, our brains are much more effective recognizing shapes trends and patterns than analyzing spreadsheets or tables full of numbers. There are close to a dozen applications that fall into this category from companies around the globe. The leading ones are growing their acceptance at a very fast rate. Five of them have made it to Gartner Research's 2012 Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant Report (including MicroStrategy, the largest independent provider of Business Intelligence solutions in the world) and they’re going to stay there for the foreseeable future.
Interactive Visual Analytics represents what Gartner Research calls the consumerization of Business Intelligence. This new generation of front end BI tools is so intuitive to the user that little or no training is necessary. This is a great feature since, according to Gartner, BI users do not want to read manuals. They demand intuitive BI interfaces, in line with the internet experience they are accustomed to, like Google searches or iPhone apps.
Gartner points out an interesting fact: business users are purchasing these applications either with or without IT consent. Similarly, a recent global survey by Dresner Advisory Services reveals that 50% of self serve BI purchasing decisions take place in the business areas and not in IT.
Self-serve BI does not mean „IT Free” as a strong IT-Business partnership is always helpful to ensure data quality through proper governance and ensure the proverbial single version of the truth. Self serve refers to the user’s ability to perform data exploration and discovery without having to request IT to create specific data marts, build OLAP cubes or predefined reports, as this would delay the analysis process.
In addition to the typical functionality of multidimensional analysis (drill-down, drill-through, roll-up, sort, group, filter and calculation) some tools offer „what-if„ scenario analysis, data animation and mobile capability.
A great feature of this new generation of BI software is its data blending functionality. The applications allow connecting simultaneously to disparate types of databases or tables, whether in a data warehouse, data-marts, spreadsheets, text files, Access tables and, in some cases OLAP cubes and even data in websites or social media accounts.
Visual Analytics packages are not replacing traditional BI in large organizations but complementing them. They provide fast analytical capabilities to more people that need to gain a competitive edge in the current fast changing market dynamics.
Sources: Gartner Research, PC World, MicroStrategy, Strat Wise