Despite 2020’s economic uncertainty, the global Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics market is burgeoning, growing more than 5 percent to reach $19.2 billion last year. As companies continue their digital transformation journeys and prioritize data democratization, expect this market growth to remain steady.

As the analytics market continues to flourish, the inevitable question is “what’s the next evolution of BI?” Read on for a few key trends taking shape in 2021 and beyond:

AI and Machine Learning Drives New Possibilities

The integration of BI and machine learning is ushering in a new era of augmented analytics, which Forrester believes has the power to turn business users into citizen data scientists in a relatively short amount of time. In addition, machine learning systems can identify patterns and alert users to these insights in a way that was not possible with previous technologies.

Surging Cloud Adoption

There are numerous advantages of cloud-based BI, among them accessibility for remote users, scalability, elasticity, and speed of deployment. As organizations grow more comfortable moving large data sets to the cloud for backup and running applications, they are also more likely to shift data warehouses and data analytics to the cloud environment.

Natural Language Processing Takes a Step Forward

Building natural language processing into BI systems makes it easier for non-IT employees to formulate a query and obtain the right answer. As such, NLP is a critical technology for extending BI across the organization. 

BI Becomes Operational

The traditional approach to BI was to deliver reports on a fixed schedule, but that no longer aligns with today’s always-on business environment. Decisions must be made in real-time, giving rise to operational BI, in which data from various sources is collected and analyzed to deliver insights when organizations need them. Dashboards can automatically refresh at fixed intervals, and the system can trigger alerts to flag if a problem has arisen or there is an emerging opportunity worth exploring.

Using Data to Tell a Story

As BI becomes more pervasive, there is a shift toward storytelling rather than data dumping. Expect analytics platforms to continue to simplify their presentations to walk users through a particular problem and present not only the raw data but also suggestions for what actions to take as a result.

Successful BI Continues to Require Upfront Work

It’s important to note that the BI trends outlined above won’t just happen on their own. The technology has matured significantly, but organizations still need to put in the effort to modernize their internal approaches to the technology, particularly on the people and process side of the equation. Taking the time to build a data-driven culture and properly train employees will pay significant dividends, so it’s important that organizations continue to prioritize this work.

For more on how to make data-driven culture a priority in your organization, check out this previous APEX of Innovation post, and you can read more about what’s next for BI in this CIO article.