One of the best things about my job is that I get to continually scan the industry and learn about who’s driving innovation (see my predictions for 2018 here). As a result, I see five key trends emerging in the analytics space over the next year.
1. Automation of everything
Gartner says that by 2020 more than 40% of data science tasks will be performed by machines and we already see this happening. Vendors are trying to automate any part of the process where human beings are involved from data preparation right through to delivery. Every vendor is also in a rush to build an augmented analytics story, irrespective of how deep that story is.
This is being driven in part by the skills shortage in analytics. The demand for analytics is huge and there are not enough skilled people. Organizations realize they need to do more with less and the best way to shorten the time to value is through automation.
While everyone is doing some form of automation, the key players in this space are Power BI, IBM Watson, ThoughtSpot, DataRobot and Yellowfin. There are also quite a few smaller vendors doing interesting things like Outlyer and Hyper Anna.
Business users are starting to realize that dashboards don’t deliver everything they need. A dashboard doesn’t provide narrative or context around the data it delivers. This has given rise to a new role in analytics that interprets data for the business. I’ve recently heard Claudia Imhoff talk about Data Interpreters and others mention Business Data Scientists. Organizations need their data to be interpreted and contextualised, so they’re creating specialised roles to do this.
The question is what toolsets will these data interpreters use? Some companies have built this capability internally. For example, we saw one of the leading global advertising agencies build their own platform so they could tell stories with data and embed Power BI and Tableau reports. This tells us that there’s a need for a narrative driven BI tool.
We’re already seeing some startup vendors bring storytelling tools to market that tell long-form narratives with data. But most of these vendors are niche and no significant industry player has a data storytelling module or product yet. I expect big developments here over the next year, and Yellowfin will be on the forefront of this data storytelling innovation.
3. Mobile BI 2.0
About seven years ago, mobile BI was the next big thing. Everyone jumped on the iPhone bandwagon and rushed to market with a mobile solution. But they just replicated the desktop experience on a mobile device and it generally failed.
I believe we’ll see the return of mobile as the interface of choice in 2019, but this time it’ll be very different. When I talk to customers today, no one wants to replicate their desktop experience on their mobile. We live in a multi-device world and how people consume information is very different on each device.
Vendors are also far more sophisticated in their understanding of the mobile experience now and this will drive a resurgence in how they think about mobile BI. I believe mobile BI 2.0 will redefine the whole delivery interface.
Oracle and Domo are already thinking about better ways to deliver analytics on mobile. They both deliver a different experience on their mobile and desktop platforms. It’s now time for the rest of the industry to catch up.
4. Natural language
Natural Language Querying (NLQ) has existed for a number of years. Vendors like Thoughtspot, Qlik, Tableau and Power BI have text-based NLQ – you type in a question and get a result. But I would argue that it hasn’t been that successful because there’s no real demand for text based queries.
I think the real opportunity for NLQ is through voice because there’s a real use case, especially when combined with mobile BI. If you’re out in the field and want to ask a question, it’s much more effective to do that with voice. That’s why many people use Siri on their mobile but not on their computer.
Over the next year, I think we’ll see the text search interface disappear and be replaced by voice as vendors rethink mobile delivery. The vendor with the clear lead here today is Oracle.
5. Analytics everywhere
Over the past two decades the dashboard has become the centralized point for people to consume analytics, but I think those days are numbered. Historically, vendors have expected everyone to log into their dashboard to consume data but some vendors have started to disaggregate their product. Rather than people coming into a BI application, the content is being pushed out to where people want and need to consume their analytics.
Over the next year, I think more vendors will start bringing data and analysis to the user by embedding in any application that makes sense. For example, users may be able to access data through a widget in Slack or analytics could be embedded into an email conversation in a sophisticated way.
There are already many vendors doing different things in this space. Looker is embedding analytics in Slack and Sisense is also experimenting with new ways of delivery, for example. But I don’t think any major vendor is taking the strategy of analytics everywhere seriously yet. This will change over the next year as user demand drives the need for vendors to have a multi-channel strategy for delivering analytical content.
There is currently overwhelming pressure on the BI industry to change the way people experience analytics. In 2019, these five trends will go a long way towards achieving that.