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BI spending up, skills down, Gartner says

Companies are planning to spend on BI but are sorely lacking the necessary skill sets, according to recent research. Gartner surveyed more than 900 firms on their BI usage.

CHICAGO -- A wave of investment in business intelligence (BI) software may be a dream come true for vendors, but it could be a nightmare for another group -- those trying to staff their company's BI implementation.

The biggest barrier to BI deployment is a lack of user skills and knowledge of best practices, according to research presented by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. at its BI conference last week. Yet companies are planning to spend on BI this year. Of the 917 companies surveyed for Gartner's report, 39% said they plan to increase spending and another 34% responded they intend to spend the same as they do now. Gartner recently surveyed IT and business users across multiple industries and geographies to gauge their BI usage.

"There's a big gap between awareness and penetration," said Bill Hostmann, Gartner research director. "[BI is] high on the CIO's agenda, but few organizations have actually deployed it."

The second largest barrier identified in the research was total cost of ownership.

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With the lack of available BI skills, many organizations will form a BI competency center, a group that shares best practices, vision and governance of BI projects. Currently, 20% of companies have a competency center and 20% have plans for one in the next year. Competency center personnel and BI project leaders report most often to the CEO, according to the report.

The biggest growth area for BI is in the midmarket and in smaller organizations, according to Hostmann.

According to the survey, the reasons for implementing BI are fairly mixed -- responding to user's needs for data and improving decision making were the most popular motivators. However, a clear trend is that companies are thinking about BI tactically rather than strategically, said Howard Dresner, vice president and Gartner fellow.

That holds true with application plans as well. Performance management tools were the most likely to be purchased in the next 12 months, with 62% of respondents saying they would invest there, followed by sales analytics at 42% and customer and marketing analytics at 37%. Only 27% listed analytics that operate across the enterprise.

"The front office appears to be important again," Dresner said. "When things are not going well economically, we focus on the back office. When they are, we focus on the front office. That's borne out [in these results]. The back office took a back seat."

Respondents identified reporting capabilities as their top spending area over the next 12 months, followed by ad hoc query capabilities and desktop application integration. Mobile applications were at the bottom of the list.

Companies prefer to pay for their BI applications on a perpetual license model. The per concurrent user option was most popular, followed by enterprise-wide and a server or CPU-based plan.

"There's a misalignment here between what the dominant vendors offer and what the users want," Dresner said. "The best mix is some concurrent licenses for your casual users and some named licenses for power users."

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