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How the business of big data is getting bigger

According to Gartner, 30 per cent of all business intelligence (BI) is now on a mobile device. In a market that's worth around £80 billion for both software and hardware services, that's proof that not only is BI one of the top priorities of CIO's today, it's also becoming increasingly mobile.

But why? According to Stephen Gallagher, VP of business intelligence at Avanade, the answer lies in the fact that analytics as a tool is becoming more important than ever.

"Analytics is starting to become more mainstream, so much so that it's starting to be embedded in devices themselves," he says. "Cars for instance. Cars make decisions about certain tuning of the engine, performance of the engine to predict when it might be fail and so on, depending on the information available to them."

That's not to say that BI and analytics have not always enjoyed a prime spot in a company's toolkit. No matter what the state of the economy, BI solutions can really help boost a business.

Gallagher explains, "When the economy is down, companies want to better understand where their costs are, where they're losing money, what's their most profitable or best products. When the market is up, it tends to be that companies are chasing the same customers with similar products, and trying to figure out ways to get additional customers they'll use BI or analytics to get a better understanding of how they can be competitive and increase their standing in the market."

Clearly then this has always been a hot market, but the as companies have continued to accumulate more and more customer data, the last few years have seen BI skyrocket in relevance and popularity.

Now, BI is evolving again. It's expanding into the front end, meaning the way in which people actually use analytics and business intelligence is changing. "So if you have an iPad or a Surface for instance," says Gallagher, "there's a lot of software now that lets you analyse data in these devices. It's called mobile analytics, and we'll be seeing a lot more of it in the coming years where people are able to analyse data whilst on the road, not being tied to the desk. This is a big growth market."

Most companies will have some level of data reporting or analytics in one form or another, the point Gallagher is making is that the technology is evolving rapidly. "BI's been around for ten years but the big step change is actually moving people away from their desks, because a lot of people are on the move – look at salesmen, doctors, nurses, the top level of organisations like CEOs. So the ability to touch back to base and connect to a server filled with relevant information is very key."

Even if you have something as basic as Microsoft Excel (a program that Gallagher describes as a "very powerful tool") you can perform quite advanced analytics tasks. So what are you waiting for? If you have Microsoft Office suite, you will already have the tools to do some clever analytics, and if you have a mobile device on top of that, you can even do them on the move, especially if the rumours that Microsoft Office will land on the iPad this year turn out to be true.