Q&A: Bimodal BI shaping a changing analytics industry

Self-service analytics provider Logi Analytics recently appointed Tom Cahill as VP of EMEA, following senior management roles at Jaspersoft and Talend.

As a recognised thought leader in analytics, we sat down with Tom to discuss his new role at Logi and recent developments in the industry.

  1. Why did you want to join Logi Analytics and how have you found your first couple of months?

I’ve been busy! I’ve been meeting and speaking with many people from all sorts of organisations throughout Europe. From these conversations, it was clear there is growing frustration among analytics users who are unable to analyse and visualise data efficiently, and in meaningful context.

When I first worked with analytics tools 13 years ago, I was a super-user, helping colleagues discover, integrate, report and analyse pools of data. At that time, the tools available were inflexible, and there wasn’t an easy way to quickly design, configure and deliver reports for key decision makers – essentially, I became a bottleneck. I still see this trend today with IT teams and BI analysts who are tasked with creating and delivering insights across multiple systems using all sorts of data. They create static reports, which are easily distributed, but struggle to support users who want to create their own views. Because self-service is how users typically engage with today’s consumer applications, processes and other tools, adoption is weak for analytics, where flexible self-service options are limited.

When I was invited by Brett Jackson, CEO of Logi Analytics, to view the product in its latest form, Version 12, I could clearly see how far Logi had moved forward in delivery of self-service capabilities, in addition to its industry-leading embeddable product and platform. When he invited me to join the team, I was happy to accept.

  1. What were your main goals when you joined the company?

One of my main goals is to cement Logi’s presence and position as a leading analytics vendor in all major European markets.

Logi offers an extremely extensible and scalable platform, empowering users, regardless of their role or skill set, to access data across multiple systems and make better decisions. With self-service, more users can benefit from differing complexities in analytics. I am excited to be a part of the team developing this flexibility even further and thereby ensuring even more widespread appeal and adoption for organisations worldwide.

  1. What benefits can data analytics solutions offer businesses and what potential issues should IT leaders be aware of?

The benefits that data analytics can offer a business varies widely based on the needs of the business itself – there is no ‘one size fits all’ model. However, there is no question that by providing employees with self-service analytics tools, organisations are not only enabling users to get their own answers, they are also changing the way these users think about how they make decisions. In other words, people will begin to proactively look for the information that can help them make better decisions.

In terms of challenges, Logi’s State of Self Service BI Report from last year looked into how business users and IT professionals view and use self-service business intelligence tools in the workplace today, and raised several issues:

  • The US appears to be more advanced than the UK in understanding how data is important in business. When asked whether they thought their roles would become more data-driven over the next two years, 47 per cent of US respondents said ‘yes – more so’ vs. 36 per cent of UK respondents. I expect this will be a cultural shift that organisations will need to start to make.
  • Where BI tools are being adopted in the UK, there is a trend for shadow IT and buying without consent. UK respondents were 11 per cent more likely that their US counterparts to buy BI without input from IT. This can cause a variety of issues, as users look to connect to new data sets. Organisations need to consider a set of tools that offers all users the capabilities they need – from interactive dashboards, all the way to data discovery.
  • There is significantly less collaboration between business and IT in the UK compared to the US: 64 per cent of BI purchases in the US are a joint decision between IT and business, compared to just 49 per cent in the UK. When IT and business work together to make these purchase decisions, all parties end up much more satisfied with the resulting tools.

These challenges need to be addressed as we enter 2016 if businesses are to make the most of the business analytics solutions available to them.

  1. How has the analytics market developed in 2015 and what do you see changing in 2016?

In 2015 we saw some saw major shifts in the market. Traditional BI all but went away, as organisations began to take a more modern, self-service approach to analytics. This was reflected in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI & Analytics as well.

I would also say that data was a big focus in 2015. More organisations, of all sizes, began to leverage big data sources for analysis. Data preparation tools also started taking centre stage.

This year, one of the biggest changes we are starting to see is the idea of Bimodal BI. Organisations want both centralised data – for governance and security reasons – and a decentralised mode of operation – for data discovery and to allow users find new insights in a self-service fashion without increasing the workload of the reporting team. The biggest challenge that needs to be tackled now, is in being able to achieve this within a single BI environment. It’s something that Logi is working towards.

I also think as self-service analytics gains a stronger foothold, business users are going to start asking for access to more data, which will bring a greater focus on data preparation. It will be important for IT teams to prepare data for analysis, which may include cleansing, filtering, and shaping the data in some way that makes analysis of the data easier or more understandable for the end user.

  1. What are your thoughts on the skills gap in the industry at the moment? How can the problem be solved?

I think there is likely always going to be an analytics skill gap. As organisations look to take advantage of more advanced and predictive analytics, the complexity of analysis is only going to increase. Even with the new class of self-service options, there will still be a need for power users and data analysts – a talent pool that is simply not large enough to meet the growing demand.

That being said, organisations can empower more of its workforce with tools that offer a tailored analytics experience for their individual roles and skills. I think this is one way we can start to close the skills gap.

Let the advanced users use the advanced tools and do complex analysis. But offer an analytics experience to other users that allow them to do analysis at their own level.

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