How the pandemic gave us a taste for BI

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It's a well-known fact that COVID-19 sped up the digitisation of work processes, to enable distance working. Now it seems the virus has hastened the adoption of business intelligence (BI) as well, say BI specialists AIGS Insights.

Gustav Piater, Sales & Marketing Director of AIGS Insights, the exclusive sub-Saharan African distributor of Yellowfin BI, says BI has evolved in four major ways over the past 18-24 months, all thanks to it getting the public's attention in a big way during the various lockdowns.

  • 1. Contextual vs standalone

Piater says when the public started receiving a non-stop daily dose of COVID-19 data, they quickly became used to consuming complex datasets in tabular or visual formats like pie or bar charts.

Increasingly comfortable with this new visual language, business users soon began to demand/ expect data analytics within their core business systems – a pre-existing, but suddenly very relevant software delivery method known as 'contextual BI'.

  • 2. Accessible to all businesses

Piater says contextual delivery has hastened the democratisation of BI software.

"Traditionally, BI was only accessible to big corporates, as it required costly software and hardware infrastructure and specialised skills. But over time, we've seen an increase in BI industry competition and more analytic skills in the marketplace. The pandemic has sped up the demand for this and contextual BI, all of which has helped to make BI more mainstream and affordable."

  • 3. More user-friendly

In keeping with this trend, the profile of the typical BI consumer has also changed, he says.


"Before, BI was for people with analytical skills. Now it's for everyone. Finance staff were early adopters, as their Excel skills gave them a good understanding of data and reporting. Now we see more adoption from other areas of the business, such as general administration. Many more people are asking for reports, charts, and infographics in their day-to-day."

  • 4. Responsive

With more consumers entering the BI arena than ever during COVID-19, user demands are changing, Piater adds.


"With traditional BI there was significant latency between the transactional business systems producing the data, the data warehouse readying it for analysis, and the reports presenting the data for end-user consumption."


"People started asking if I can type a query in Google and get COVID-19 stats, why can't I get easy-to-read and understandable business and user data in my job?"


"Managers and supervisors across the board now want it within the business's core transactional systems, instantly. It has really demystified reporting for everyone. People are no longer intimidated by what was previously considered a mathematical function."


What does contextual BI look like?

Piater explains that contextual BI embeds dashboards and analytic solutions directly into a non-BI software application's core workflows.


"Now, when you're running your application and you're looking at call centre details, for example, you can see the analytics in context, in real-time. You can see how many times a customer has spoken to the business in the past, who they are, their history with the company, etc.


"This new approach delivers the benefits of analytics within the situational framework where decisions are made. In the call centre scenario, context allows for better service, but it can play out in a huge variety of other scenarios too."


A new day

And that changes everything.


"It's no longer about separate applications needing to integrate, but about having intelligence as part of your core application," he says. "Contextual BI is dynamic, seamless, situational, integrated and user-friendly, and it's a reality today."
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