Several technology trends have greatly impacted the evolution of reporting tools and the way overall business intelligence is conducted. Whereas users once needed some understanding of programming to make basic queries, today's solutions emphasize accessibility. Of course, this doesn't mean that IT should turn away from tools with robust functionality they can use - it simply necessitates software that is customizable that a degree of customization is necessary to satisfy most organizational needs.
There will likely be an additional shift toward self-service BI in 2014, according to InformationWeek contributor Cindi Howson. The way that information is displayed and the interfaces used to present it are becoming just as important as the data itself. The user-driven approach to the development of reporting tools can create some friction between business units and IT.
"The BI tools market was founded on the concept of self-service business intelligence: Let users create their own queries without having to know SQL," Howson wrote. "The difference is in how much IT is involved upfront and to what degree users are able and willing to do things on their own. Visual data discovery tools have brought a greater degree of ease and flexibility than conventional BI modules for production reporting, business query, and building dashboards."
As Howson's comments suggest, it may be helpful to facilitate collaboration between departments to identify users' need and which interface elements would be the most important for a new reporting tool. For instance, employees working with larger volumes of data can benefit significantly from functionality that allows them to create charts and graphs easily. Furthermore, the value of data visualization applies to technical and non-IT teams alike, since it enables users to grasp much more information in a shorter amount of time.
The growth of mobile and personalization
The question of where users access data has also become a key consideration for developers. The emergence of cloud and Web-based tool means that reporting functionality can be accessed from nearly anywhere and on a wide range of devices. Howson suggested that 2014 will be a good year for HTML5 development, particularly in the area of mobile. The features within HTML5 make it easier for developers to leverage touchscreen technology and ensure that their applications perform well on smartphones and tablets.
Furthermore, the growing number of devices within the average business technology ecosystem puts more emphasis on software customization. The ability to personalize interfaces has long been a key selling point for consumer-facing applications. However, consumer technology trends have also entered enterprise environments - even highly regulated ones. InformationWeek contributor Kaveh Safavi recently highlighted several IT trends in the healthcare sector, one of which is the need for customization. In a healthcare setting, it is no longer enough to only consider what medical professionals need as healthcare IT must now making choices from a patient-centric perspective.
"While developments in healthcare IT offer tremendous opportunities, it would be wrong to assume that all patients respond in the same way," Safavi wrote. "In practice, the challenge is to embrace new technologies in the context of what patients actually want, rather than what practitioners want to use."
A similar philosophy can help to guide software development on a broader scale. Instead of prioritizing the features that IT believes are essential, organizations benefit most when business and IT come together. In this way, business teams have a chance to identify what they need to do their jobs effectively, and IT has the opportunity to ensure that organizational demands for productivity and data security are met.