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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- While many are curious about the future of BI, here at a business intelligence conference, experts made clear it's impossible to predict that future.
The best most of us can do is chart the past, keep an eye on the present and follow trends to suggest what might come next. That's a point futurist Amy Webb and researcher Howard Dresner made quite clear in their keynotes at Dresner's Real Business Intelligence Conference, which took place here this week.
Identifying trends is more of a science than an art, according to Webb, founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute and a professor at the New York University Stern School of Business.
Futurist sees AI in BI
As a futurist, Webb advises businesses and governments on technology trends. She said the advice she offers is "grounded in data."
Every year, Webb publishes her Emerging Tech Trends Report. With close to 250 trends in this year's edition, it covers topics ranging from the current state and future of BI and data management tools to emerging applications for various AI tools.
Speaking about AI, Webb noted the potential importance tools like machine learning systems could have for businesses.
Machine learning, in automating parts of data analysis, theoretically can better position a business across all of its branches -- from sales to marketing to customer service -- based on how much data it has available, Webb said.
Emerging tools like deep learning -- which functions in a similar way, but can ideally develop more important inferences with less data -- have the potential to change the way businesses house their data and how their data retention policies are structured, Webb continued.
Small group of AI giants
Howard Dresnerchief research officer, Dresner Advisory Services
Now, Webb said there are a total of nine companies "driving the entire culture of AI," including Microsoft, Google and Amazon. She added that she expects the AI sector to consolidate even more.
In addition to their large budgets and powerful AI tools, these AI giants also maintain large-scale data storage tools and possess robust cloud platforms.
With the future of BI and analytics moving toward more cloud storage and automated analysis, Webb said she would expect to see a business "quickly moving to pick which system it will connect with" and flexibility becoming more limited.
Cloud critical to BI
Meanwhile, in his opening keynote at the conference, Dresner highlighted the results of surveys on the state of BI by his firm, Dresner Advisory Services, where he is chief research officer.
Dresner touched on the growing force of cloud computing. Since 2016, when its future was still somewhat uncertain, the cloud has "very much become mainstream," he said.
AI technologies are developing quickly, too, he said, although perhaps not as fast as its widespread publicity would make it appear. "Smart features will increasingly creep into many solutions," Dresner said.
Over the last few years, vendors have made big strides in providing software as a service, which has now become fairly common. While dashboards and reporting are still the main priorities of BI teams, emerging technology and tools, such as edge computing and text analytics, are gaining in significance, he said.
In general, the future of BI looks positive, he said, noting that BI budgets are increasing year by year.
Editor's note: TechTarget, publisher of SearchBusinessAnalytics, is a media partner of the event.