December 12, 2017

5 Business Intelligence Trends For 2018

Written by
Paul Robertson

As we move through the final stages of 2017 and set our sights on the following year, a clearer picture begins to emerge of the hottest trends in business intelligence (BI). Here’s what you should look out for in 2018.

Trend 1: Data discovery made easy

Data discovery has traditionally been the domain of power users and experts with the skills to understand advanced analytics.

Business leaders had to convey their data requests to an IT expert who would create a report. This could take days of waiting and requests could get lost in translation. By that time, the information may be no longer relevant.

Now, the ongoing simplification of BI will continue to enable everyday business people to easily and quickly access real-time analytics.

You’ll no longer need to know how to write complex queries for reports. You’ll just need to know how to use a simple BI solution to drill down into the data and discover the answers to your questions. You can find out what’s happening below the surface of your business and use this information to make better decisions.

ALSO READ: The Evolution of BI Software in the Workplace

Trend 2: Visual analytics

Visual analytics makes data discover easy for non-analytical people. Visualizations activate our brain’s pattern recognition capabilities and make it easy for us to digest information at a glance. Many business leaders find it easier to detect patterns if data is presented in charts and graphs, as opposed to being buried in data tables spanning multiple pages.

Visual analysis is an important feature and is heavily sought after by businesses. It’s a more effective and efficient way of enabling decision makers to access, and quickly act on, data.

A good visual analytics feature (otherwise known as a dashboard), will prompt you to look deeper into your data to continue discovering answers to questions that may arise along the way. Business intelligence dashboards should offer you the ability to drill down on any feature of the data you see and manipulate it as you like.

Ideally, you will also be able to customize your dashboard and sort by products, customers, sales representative, or anything else that is relevant to you. With the right dashboard, you will be able to quickly reveal sale opportunities, and/or threats, which may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Trend 3: Self-service BI

Self-service BI is an important extension of the previous two trends. Essentially, self-service BI is when a staff member uses a BI solution to analyze live business data and build immediate, accurate, and customized visual reports without the need for clunky reports from IT specialists.

Gartner predicts that by the end of the year, most decision makers and business users will have access to self-service BI solutions to make better-informed decisions, and act on them more quickly. According to Gartner research vice president, Rita Sallam, “self-service data integration will reduce the significant time and complexity users face in preparing their data for analysis and shift much of the activity from IT to the business user.”

Trend 4: Mobile BI

In today’s fast-paced business environment, decision makers across a business require access to critical information anywhere, anytime. This has largely been made easier with BI’s increased accessibility on mobile and the improving ability of smartphones to allow more detailed information to be analyzed on a mobile device. This has invariably led to the rise of mobile business intelligence (mobile BI).

The number of businesses using mobile BI has grown significantly year-on-year. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies using mobile BI are 68% percent more likely to get business data on time than companies not using it. This means that in a cutthroat business environment, companies that use mobile BI are in a significantly better position. Using data-driven decision making, they have the best chance of staying ahead of the competition.

Trend 5: Cloud BI

Traditionally, most BI software is hosted on-premise, but the increase in on-demand data access has led to the emergence of cloud BI. The benefits of cloud BI include low cost, better mobile accessibility, and extreme scalability. Gartner states that 80 percent of organizations are likely to increase their investment in cloud-based products in the years to come.

Cloud BI offers several advantages, including:

Easy implementation

Users can quickly and easily install a cloud BI solution because it’s an internet-based software. There isn’t a need for IT staff.


Ease-of-use if how good cloud BI solutions are designed. User-friendly dashboards and intuitive design means users are set up almost instantly, without muddling through a complicated set of instructions.


Users can access data anywhere, anytime using cloud BI on mobile devices and tablets.


As companies expand (staff and/or geographically) adding new users to an existing cloud BI solution is simple and quick.

Low cost

Cloud BI reduces operational dependence on staff because it’s internet-based.

Competitive advantage

Companies of all sizes within an industry can access cloud BI and use it to make up ground on larger companies with bigger budgets. Cloud BI creates a more level playing field because of its range of benefits and low cost.

With a clear idea of the latest BI trends, business leaders will be better placed to uncover previously unseen opportunities and challenges and negate potential threats before they have a significant impact. In 2018, this will lead to better decision making and more efficient processes. If you need a hand deciding which business intelligence software is right for you, use the Product Selection Tool and get a curated list of vendors that best fit your company’s unique BI software needs. 

Paul Robertson is head of digital marketing at Phocas Software. Phocas business intelligence software helps wholesale distributors, manufacturers, and retailers discover opportunities to increase sales, reduce costs and gain better visibility into their business. Paul holds a degree in communications and marketing and is completing a Master of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.