There are major forces at play that are changing how business operates: Business processes are becoming more integrated and complex, economic pressures are forcing companies to do more with less, and the amount of information available is becoming more overwhelming. To meet these changing conditions, companies of all sizes are progressively more dependent on increasing the productivity of knowledge workers. However, the workflows, tool sets, and skills that these knowledge workers are using are more grounded in Industrial Revolution-era thinking and have not been modernised to adapt to the business realities of today. As a result, many of these workers are at a breaking point, spending more and more time looking through and sorting information and less time adding value to it.
This current state creates a potentially tremendous opportunity for breakthrough productivity gains for companies that confront this rising time of information chaos. To test this hypothesis, in September 2009, SAP commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate the information usage requirements, patterns, and challenges of modern knowledge workers. In conducting 30 in-depth interviews with 24 business and six IT professionals across multiple industries, Forrester found that these companies — across industries, geographies, and roles — heavily depend on all types of information for operational, tactical, and strategic decision-making. Even though the study was conducted more than a year ago, all subsequent Forrester research conducted throughout 2010 and 2011 — summarised in Forrester's March 31, 2011, "Trends 2011 And Beyond: Business Intelligence" research report, as well as Forrester's Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010 — confirm that the study findings are even more applicable today.
Regardless of the company size, industry, the function, or the geography, Forrester found that information brokers all share similar characteristics. They use information from a variety of different sources both internally and externally, finding the right information for their specific need, which takes a lot of time. And when they do find it, they have to wade through a lot to find exactly what they are looking for, and they all feel that getting the right information to do their job is getting harder each year. Across Forrester's interview sample, everyone wants to spend more time applying their own unique genius to the information to create value for their company. But being caught between the proverbial rock (greater workloads and more pressure to produce results) and hard place (the increased amount of time they spend looking for information), they are finding that they are seeing their work weeks extend or realising that there are valuable activities they could be doing with the information, if they only had the time.
But it's not all bad news: business intelligence (BI) to the rescue! Forrester defines BI as a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational insights and decision-making. But often BI infrastructure and applications — implemented in an attempt to aid these knowledge workers — become complex and expensive, and many Forrester clients tell us that they depend too heavily on IT for most BI needs. The world, however, does not stand still, and business often cannot wait until someone from IT develops a new report — they need it now! As a result, Forrester has seen an emergence of self-service or so called lean and agile BI tools that business users procure, install, and use with significantly reduced need for support from IT than earlier generation BI tools and applications