The Real Business Intelligence Trends in 2021

2020 has been a time of fundamental change in many organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the economy and many companies have had to restructure their work.

For some, this situation meant shifting their workplace from the office to their homes. For others who could not work from home, the workplace had to be made safer. It is hard to imagine an area that was not in some way affected by the economic, social and individual consequences of this global pandemic.

We have observed this year that hyped topics such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have receded into the background in the face of the crisis. Instead, companies have focused more on basic operations and processes. However, most trends are rather stable which shows us that, even in times of transition, companies’ focus does not shift in a drastic way.

This year we asked 2,259 users, consultants and vendors for their views on the most important data, BI and analytics trends. The BARC Data, BI and Analytics Trend Monitor 2021 illustrates which trends are currently regarded as important in addressing these challenges by a broad group of BI and analytics professionals. Their responses provide a comprehensive picture of regional, company and industry specific differences and offer insights into developments in the BI market and the future of BI.

Our long-term comparisons also show how trends have developed, making it possible to separate hype from stable trends. BARC’s Data, BI and Analytics Trend Monitor 2021 reflects on the business intelligence, analytics and data management trends currently driving the market from a user perspective.

Importance of Data, BI and Analytics Trends in 2021 (n=2,259)

The Most (and Least) Important Business Intelligence Trends in 2021

We asked over 2,500 users, consultants and vendors for their views on the most important BI, analytics and data management trends, delivering an up-to-date perspective on regional, company and industry-specific differences and providing comprehensive insights on the BI, analytics and data management market.

Data quality/master data management, data discovery/visualization and data-driven culture are the three topics that practitioners identified as the most important trends in their work.

At the other end of the spectrum, data catalogs, augmented analytics and IoT data and analytics were voted as the least important of the twenty trends covered in BARC’s survey.

Importance of BI Trends (Timeline)

Our View on the Results

Master data and data quality management in first position and data discovery in second are evergreens that have been in these top positions for four years in a row now. Many companies see these two trends as important and their significance transcends individual regions and industry sectors.

Establishing a data-driven culture is a trend that was newly introduced to the BARC BI Trend Monitor two years ago. Starting from rank five in the first edition, it made its way up to rank three last year where it remains this year. Data governance and self-service BI (ranked four and five respectively) have been equally consistent trends, but self-service had occupied a higher position before data-driven culture was introduced.

All in all, these top five trends represent the foundation for organizations to manage their own data and make good use of it. Furthermore, they demonstrate that organizations are aware of the relevance of high quality data and its effective use. Organizations want to go beyond the collection of as much data as possible and actively use data to improve their business decisions. This is also supported by data warehouse modernization, which moved up one place to sixth position this year.

Some trends have slightly increased in importance since last year (e.g., data catalogs). However, most trends have remained at the same level. The only exception is cloud BI for data & analytics which was in 18th spot for two years before moving up to 14th this year.

This can be explained by the increasing interest in cloud BI. The idea of using a cloud environment to run BI and analytics is no longer merely promoted by software vendors but is transitioning from theory into practice. Even though adoption is developing slowly, the upward trend of the cloud tells us that companies are becoming increasingly familiar with using cloud, or at least hybrid, solutions.

There are also no major shifts in the downward trends. Data preparation by business users dropped from rank six to rank seven due to data warehouse modernization becoming more important. Advanced analytics/machine learning and AI also fell one place to rank eleven. In this case, a continuous downward trend can be observed over the last three years (similar to Mobile BI in previous years).

Companies are struggling to adapt machine learning mechanisms when the foundation – good quality and accessible data – has not quite been achieved yet. Most companies seem to be going back to the roots and concentrating on the basics of using and managing their data before they shift their priorities on to advanced methods.

In the next few weeks and months, we will post and update a series of articles looking at each trend in more detail. You will learn how different regions, industries, user types, company sizes and best-in-class companies rate the various trends and how their views have changed since last year. Sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll keep you informed about the latest articles.

BARC Data, BI and Analytics Trend Monitor 2021

The full study features analyst commentary and user ratings of 20 trends in the BI and analytics market

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