Business intelligence can be put to many uses by organizations. Through Web-based reporting formats such as WinForms, it is possible to assimilate and analyze data from many different sources and use it for purposes that may have once been unimaginable.

Organizations poised to begin using business intelligence in the new year can prepare themselves to make the shift by figuring out how to bridge their data-driven architecture with their implementation of a physical architecture so that they can begin developing applications, Loraine Lawson wrote in ITBusinessEdge. Doing so can help fill in the gap between having business information and implementing it in a way that provides real benefits.

The most difficult and time-consuming part of any business information project is finalizing the data architecture in such a way that it offers robust support for the physical implementation to follow. Knowing what tools will be needed and what elements will ultimately make up the implementation layer, such as report viewers and datagrids, is necessary in order to pull off a successful integration effort.

"In the past, integration was pretty straightforward: You need batch processing, and then get ETL," Lawson wrote. "You need incremental data loads, so look at change data capture. With big data, you'll likely use a variety of integration approaches, as well as master data management, semantic technologies and so on."

The integration layer

Building a data-driven integration layer can help users identify the various data types that they want to utilize. Once the business information has been classified and prioritized, users can move on to designing the architecture that they will use. This process should begin with a discussion of data governance and quality and define master data elements, data types and data owners and stewards. Companies can then determine how workloads will be managed and then work on targeting their processing requirements.

Acquiring the physical parts of the integration layer and architecture should include consideration of data loading options, batch processes and appliances that may be needed. Companies also should contemplate data availability and any special issues related to business information that could arise. Discussions of storage performance and data volumes should cover potential problem areas such as compliance, retention and any legal issues that may arise from acquiring information.

Data discovery

Business analytics is expected to remain a central focus for many companies in 2014, underlining the importance of implementing the best reporting tools available. The main focus of business information vendors in the coming years is expected to be ad hoc data discovery, IDG News Service contributor Chris Kanaracus wrote.

About 30 percent of potential business intelligence users have adopted the standard BI tool used by their firm, according to a recent Gartner report cited by Kanaracus. While some ad hoc reporting and other BI tools have been perceived as difficult to utilize, those marketed as user-friendly have attracted positive attention for their providers.

"Gartner is also predicting competition will heat up between BI platform vendors and the systems integrators who have created specialized analytic applications for various industries and business processes," Kanaracus wrote.

Providers are expected to shift the focus of their new platforms and components away from production reporting for IT users and move toward governed data analysis and discovery applications that are focused on business users. Vendors of data analytics solutions will have to move beyond traditional users to expand their range of customers. Broader offerings of applications and domain expertise designed to make analytics applications accessible to more users will become more prevalent in the coming years. Eventually, packaged analytics applications from systems integrators and vendors are expected to closely resemble each other.