It's an exciting time in BI!  The extent and speed of change in technological possibilities is greater than we've seen since the early 1990s by my reckoning.  Some of these changes have seemed like minor ripples in the past, but it seems that they are all rolling up together in the last and next couple of years in one huge tsunami.  Here are five trends that are changing the future of business intelligence:

  1. Information volumes and variety are exploding.  This is creating exciting new business opportunities, but posing huge issues for traditional tools and methodologies for managing, storing and using data.  Traditional hard (structured) data for which relational database technology is best suited is now less than 5% of the total.  How do we manage the rest?  How do we combine the new soft ("unstructured") information sensibly with the old?  Is virtualization the answer or even the only solution?
  2. Hardware is undergoing a seismic shift.  Megabytes of cheap memory and multi-core processors change the design point for applications and databases.  Many of today's mid-size data warehouses could be run in memory already... if we had the database software that could take advantage of it.  The software architecture needs to change, and we can already see the beginnings.
  3. Database structures are diverging rapidly.  Row-based, general purpose databases have dominated the market for almost two decades.  They won't go away, but more specialized databases such as columnar varieties and even non-databases like Hadoop are taking on important roles and rapidly encroaching on the old way of doing BI.  The performance benefits of this software and the hardware advances above give some hope of tackling the information tsunami, but don't ignore how they enable new ways of speeding up old tasks.
  4. Tablets and smart phones are ramping up the mobile BI information mess.  Most people focus on the usage of tablets in business and on the user interface implications, but there is another aspect.  The sheer volume of these devices and the fact that increasing amounts of information will be stored on them will make today's PC spreadsheet proliferation problem look like nothing.  How will we manage information quality, consistency and auditability in this new world?
  5. Web 2.0 is reinventing how people work.  This has been the real slow burner, but it's reaching critical mass as more and more Generation Y people get to positions of power in the workforce.  The ways that business information will be shared, used and manipulated is set for major growth.  This will have an even bigger impact on information quality, consistency and auditability that mobile BI.

To hear more join me, Rick van der Lans and Jan Henderyckx in Brussels on June 15th to explore "The Future of Business Intelligence"