How the cloud is powering modern business intelligence

This is a contributed article by Ben Schein, Vice President, Data Curiosity at Domo.


Throughout the lifetime of business intelligence (BI) as a process, we’ve become accustomed to its rapid development. As we’re seeing more and more organisations adopt the cloud, this brings BI platforms a unique opportunity to revolutionise how data is both gathered and analysed.

We cannot understate the implications the cloud is having for this more modern type of BI. Looking at traditional BI, users are restricted to hardware-bound data, meaning it was difficult to offload into easily-readable and usable formats. Compare this with the cloud – data is no longer bound to one location, but instead is readily accessible, leaving it open for actionable analysis and insights.

Comparing traditional and modern BI

The focus for BI platforms has always been delivering easily digestible and actionable insights, but that doesn’t mean this was delivered successfully.

Where data was once hardware-bound, an increased proportion of time was allocated to accessing data, rather than analysing it. This led to reactive decision making, based on historical data. In other words, we were analysing information that was already in the rearview mirror, and hoping our predictions would ring true.

The introduction of the cloud has radically changed that process. Data is easily accessible, meaning decision makers can be proactive when it comes to decisions, as they can assess their business environment in real time. With modern, cloud-powered BI, leaders can answer and address potential issues before they arise.

The key to successful modern BI

It is this ease of accessibility to datasets that is the secret ingredient in today’s cloud-powered, modern BI recipe. No matter whether companies are currently using cloud solutions or have their own datasets, the cloud combines data that lives anywhere into one place (the cloud), where it can be useful.

Although this may feel like a natural progression, this is a huge shift in how BI applications operate. The traditional process was long, and laden with issues. Data had to be accessed via a number of different hardware and software platforms, leading to lengthy processes around offloading data for use.

Using the cloud, this process has been entirely reimagined. Business cloud applications have removed the barriers around the volume and type of data we can access and analyse, further allowing for data visualisation to drive actionable insights, no matter your position in the business. Successful modern BI will allow us to use data in ways we never dreamed of.

Reaching ‘true SaaS’

So, what are the true implications of the “cloud”? Too often, companies are hindered by BI tools that live in the cloud but are not fully managed software as a service (SaaS). Further to this, they not only need to be installed within your cloud environment, but they force you to manage the clusters, servers, and capacity on your own, and pay for it.

This scenario leads to unnecessary stress on the BI professionals responsible for the platform. After all, can you be sure that your servers and clusters can handle the power requirements your BI solution is demanding? Most likely not.

Here, we see why a true SaaS solution is preferable in the modern BI space. Once companies can offload their server requirements to their cloud BI provider, the worry of not having enough “juice” is removed, along with the need to manage continuous upgrades and capacity.

Looking to the future

It’s a promising time for business intelligence. The cloud brings unfettered access to unlimited data, regardless of its placement, allowing for truly scaled data access and analytics.

Companies that are willing embrace the cloud and modern BI have a promising road ahead. With modern BI’s help, there is the potential for a new foundation of understanding their business, and proactively acting on the new insights discovered.

As Vice President of Data Curiosity at Domo Ben Schein works to spark the fire of data curiosity in enterprises large and small across the world. He has been making a mess with data for more than 20 years, leading business intelligence (BI), analytics and finance teams. Schein is an expert in user adoption and implementing large-scale BI and analytics initiatives.