Yup. We’re looking at a business intelligence renaissance

brains and gears

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 and Google 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 with Hana, Oracle with Hyperion and other products, Microsoft, 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.

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