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Yup. We’re looking at a business intelligence renaissance

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We know all about the giga-tons of information businesses are generating — and now collecting — in the era of big data. Now, judging by a rush of funding flowing into new-look business intelligence (BI) companies, there’s huge opportunity in helping mere mortals — line-of-business managers, not just CEOs and data geeks — see and analyze that data.

Just in the last few weeks, ThoughtSpot, the brainchild of former Oracle(s orcl) and Google(s goog) engineers, raised $10.5 million from Lightspeed Ventures and others to bring Google-like search to corporate data. And Domo, a one-year-old startup founded by former Omniture CEO Joshua James, snagged an impressive $125 million in new VC, bringing its total to a healthy $250 million. (Adobe Systems bought Omniture for $1.8 billion in 2009.)

But those investments are just the latest in a flurry of BI-related activity. In December Chartio logged $2.2 million in new funding from existing backer Avalon Ventures, bringing its total to $6.6 million. In August, Looker, a Santa Cruz, Calif. BI startup founded by Borland veteran Lloyd Tabb, netted $16 million in Series A funding from Redpoint Ventures and First Round Capital. Tidemark, which offers SaaS-based analytics, raised $13 million that same month, bringing its total war chest to $48 million.

That’s not all: Last year GoodData, Tidemark and Birst all raised good chunks of cash. And fan-favorite Tableau, which went public in May, has doubled its revenue over the past year. Can you say hot market?

Some, including Om, are calling this BI 2.0, but since I’ve been around long enough to have followed the Executive Information Systems (EIS) and Decision Support Systems (DSS) of yesteryear, I would say it’s more like BI 4.0. The difference between then and now is the sheer volume of data available and the sheer number of people being exposed to it. It’s not just the CEO or IT anymore, but you and me.

Welcome to the BI gold rush

So what’s going on? For one thing, more companies have more data than ever to play with. Secondly, these companies see a huge opportunity in making that data meaningful to those of us who are not data scientists and who wouldn’t know a SQL query from a hole in the ground.

  Source: Thomson Reuters

“BI is maturing and has moved beyond being a hot concept that every vendor and customer defines a little bit differently,” said Elizabeth Henlin, enterprise software analyst for Technology Business Research, via email. What that means is that there are now products out there that mid-level managers as well as data geeks see as prerequisites for helping their businesses flourish.

BI is now “quantifiable to both IT and line-of-business users — and all levels of customers see the value and are ready to buy. Cue the funding rounds!” Henlin said.

These people simply won’t put up with the old model, which often required them to request a report from IT and then wait days or weeks for that report to generate. The new BI puts the tools in their hands so they can ask questions about the data and get results — in the form of visuals that make sense — right away.

Watch for more M&A

Of course, these BI upstarts don’t have an open field. All of the legacy IT giants — SAP(s sap) with Hana, Oracle with Hyperion and other products, Microsoft(S msft), Microstrategy, IBM (which has bought a half dozen or so analytics companies over the past few years) — are all in the mix here.

Source: Thomson Reuters

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ recent report on U.S. mergers-and-acquisitions activity suggests that BI will remain a hot sector going forward:

“Expect continuously evolving analytics to continue to play an active role in M&A as well: 2013 proved to be a momentous year for creating and setting Big Data strategies. Now, with large amounts of accumulated data, companies must look toward creating actionable intelligence. With a growing field of data scientists, innovative solutions that help put analytics into action for growth are likely to spark acquirer interests.”

All those VCs pouring cash into hot BI startups are rational — they’re banking that the acquisitions will continue. Nice exits for everybody, is the hope.

If you’re interested in hearing about how big data will become more accessible to just plain folks, check out our Structure Data show next month, where analytics luminaries including New Relic CEO Lew Cirne will take the stage.

12 Responses to “Yup. We’re looking at a business intelligence renaissance”

  1. I have been selling a SaaS based Business Intelligence system since 2010 and have seen how prospects attitudes have changed towards the technology, when I first started it was a case of educating prospects, as they were unaware of what was available to them but more recently companies are aware of CRM and BI tools and most have some experience of using them.

    I hope the market continues to grow and companies are able to further benefit from the technology available to them.

    [email protected]

  2. Chris Bourne

    You have touched on a key topic in this article in that Business Intelligence is now becoming widely available for all staff members and not just senior management. The proactive nature of BI is changing the way sales opportunities are being approached and in my experience increasing revenue too. A great piece of BI software that is built for the everyday user and not just senior management is which is definitely worth having a look at.

  3. The reason why we are not seeing this same activity with ETL tools is that they are not as heavily relied upon with the new BI tools. A lot of these tools have the ability to do some ETL, natively. Also, a lot of the clients I see have ETL tools already in place, so they don’t need another. The latest round of BI tools are delivering solutions to the market, and not just shiny objects on a web page. The ability to message the data prior to final consumption is just part of the solution they are bearing.

  4. nikhilesh2013

    @Barb; On the ETL side, I would like to show you some information about our product “Helical Scrunch”. It is trying to solve exactly the same problem which are present in current set of ETL solutions like reusability, ease of usage, pluggable, control and visualization, last but not the least cost.

    How to reach out to you to share more information about the same??

    [email protected]

  5. I just wish ETL tools were experiencing the same. Too bad that flashy visuals are flashy and the tools that do the underlying data legwork are not. Every single ETL tool I’ve seen so far looks like the UI was designed in the 90s.

      • Michael E. Driscoll

        Barb – Trifacta, which GigaOm has covered is certainly part of the new-look of ETL tools. Yet the challenge with ETL is less about how they look, but rather how they feel in the hands of developers: today, doing ETL is positively painful.

        It took decades for web development to evolve to a point, with frameworks like Ruby on Rails and its cousins, where developers could build web applications with relative ease.

        It’s early days for data engineers and their productivity tools.

      • Hey Barb,
        There are a number of companies innovating in this space (Paxata and Trifacta to name a couple). I would say that the main differences between these next generation solutions vs traditional vendors are twofold:
        1. Implicit vs explicit mappings. With traditional solutions, you had to explicitly define data relationships and field mappings. Not only was this tedious, it was fragile and tended to break when data formats changed or new data was introduced. These new solutions recommend potential relationships based on data patterns. I call this social networking for data.
        2. ELT vs ETL. Previously, data was transformed immediately after it was extracted to be used for a specific purpose. Transformed data could not be repurposed for other uses (at least not without significant effort). The new approach is to extract and load data first and transform as needed on demand. That way, extracted data could be repurposed more easily without necessarily having to go back to the source for a different extract.

    • Hi Eugene,

      Paxata has recently launched our adaptive data preparation platform to the market that allows a business analyst to connect to a variety of data sources, profile them with a lot of smart tools that speed up the process, make a variety of transformations to the data, and then publish it wherever you need it. It is explicitly designed to be an agile data preparation complement to agile BI tools like QlikView and Tableau, both of whom are also our partners.

      It’s a cloud based solution that only requires your web browser, is really easy to use, and costs less then $300/month. It’s designed by people who have many years of experience (and frustration!) with these data management types of tasks. I hope it can help you too.

      We have a very modern UI and capabilities. I’d be happy to share more details with you anytime.

      Feel free to email me at: [email protected] or call me anytime at 415-314-0761.

      Best regards,

  6. This new generation of BI is fundamentally about bridging the gaps between analytics and actual business results. You have to wonder why Domo needs more external funding than Birst, GoodData, Looker, Tidemark, and Tableau combined, but other than Domo, this looks like a bunch of promising companies that are changing the BI space.