Predictions: A Cynic’s Guide to BI in 2017


I’ve been working in Business Intelligence and Analytics for over twenty-five years. With some confidence and a lot of cynicism, here are my predictions for 2017:

Business People

  • Business people will be dissatisfied with their BI systems (this is “Timo’s First Law of BI”)
  • Executives will refuse to learn to use any other data tool than Excel (and not even the newer features of that).
  • No matter how good the BI system, business people will make bad decisions based on gut feel.
  • Executives will be completely unaware of data quality problems. Unless their bonus depends on some value affected by it, at which point they will become experts.
  • Business people will find it hard to articulate what data they need — and then they will change their minds as soon as they get what they asked for.
  • Some business people will get fed up with corporate BI, and take it into their own hands. They will build a loosely-connected set of different technologies resulting in huge maintenance costs and low compliance. They will then ask IT to take over the project.


  • IT teams will implement new ERP systems, then be surprised when business people ask for analytics. Providing the analytics will require expensive changes to the ERP system.
  • IT teams will struggle to build business cases for BI. But as soon as the business people have access to the new data, they will change processes, create new opportunities, and save millions. They will take all the credit for this.
  • “Download to Excel” will continue to be the most-requested BI tool feature. Users will complain when they are unable to download the entire corporate data lake to their PC.
  • Data quality, data integration, and metadata will be the primary barriers to BI. But companies will continue to invest less in these areas than in shiny executive dashboards.
  • New data sources will outpace IT’s ability to integrate them into core platforms (no matter what technology is used).
  • BI Competency Centers will over-invest in technical skills and under-invest in training, communications, and community-building.


  • Some analysts will say BI and BI competency centers are dead, much to the confusion of the millions of people doing it every day.
  • Analysts will say that there is only 15% penetration of BI. Nobody will understand where this number comes from, and why it hasn’t changed in over twenty years.
  • Analysts will say that data should be treated like an asset. Companies will not treat it like an asset.
  • BI success numbers will be “calculated” using non-scientific samples of self-reported estimates without defining what “success” means. Analysts will say these numbers are too low, and that you need help from analysts to improve them.

The market

  • Everybody will insist their definition of Business Intelligence / Analytics / Big Data etc. is the only “correct” one.
  • New analytics buzzwords will be coined. Thousands of articles will be written saying that the new buzzwords are meaningless and/or wrong.
  • New BI startups will be created. They will claim to bring “BI to the masses” for the first time.
  • Newer vendors will call the older vendors inflexible dinosaurs. Older vendors will call newer vendors immature and unsafe. Some newer vendors will suddenly realize that they are now considered the older vendors.

Your turn: what did I miss? 🙂

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19 responses to “Predictions: A Cynic’s Guide to BI in 2017”

  1. Arun Anilkumar Avatar
    Arun Anilkumar


    Spot on in every statement.. Sokething that we should all read and learn something from

  2. Kim Avatar

    I laughed…. and then I cried when I realised it was all true.

  3. Afzal Ahad Avatar
    Afzal Ahad

    Very good read…it is as if Timo Elliott has put words to my own experience, pain points and frustration with business handling of BI

  4. Lothar M Avatar
    Lothar M

    2017 will be the year where the unicorn business persona (Senior business content knowledge expert with IT architecture & process) will happily develop business usable Analytics solutions together with the newest tech tool gurus (Data scientists degree holders). And the business execs will understand and take these results and make data and logic driven business decisions…..

  5. Pierre-Yves Avatar

    So true…but I still hope we are wrong and companies will change their mind…

    BTW, here is my contribution:

    All C-Level executives will agree on the necessity of BI tools in the company, but won’t agree on nor define the KPIs and their definition to drive the business…

  6. Mark J. Richardson Avatar
    Mark J. Richardson

    “Companies will spend Millions and Billions on ERP and Custom-Solutions, and then hire Minimum-Wage Temp-Staff to do their Data-Entry work. (*even better if they Off-Shore the Data-Entry/Data-Loads to the Lowest-Bidder.)”

  7. Jeffrey Phuah Avatar
    Jeffrey Phuah

    I reckon you nailed it.

  8. Tobias Avatar

    I had to smile! Reminded me of an not-so-serious article I wrote a few weeks back about safe ways how to sabotage BI projects 🙂

  9. Ram Chaitanya Avatar
    Ram Chaitanya

    Hilarious read! Timeless BI truths!

  10. BeenThereGuy Avatar

    Companies will carefully architect master data for their shiny new ERP implementations after meticulous study, then turn maintenance over to organizations that do not understand basic data concepts.

  11. Andy Menzies Avatar

    Did you cut and paste from the one you wrote in 1995?

    1. Ronald Avatar

      No…he exported from excel.

  12. Maris Avatar

    The market:
    * Gartner may invent new BI sub-category to even more confuse customers and vendors. Vendors will be able to emphasize in how many Quadrants they are leading.

  13. Daan Bakboord Avatar

    Great read and so true.

    Next year organisations want to migrate to a new BI solution, but they still need exactly the same functionality as the had in the previous BI environment. Why? Well, just because we are doing this for 15 years already……

    1. Jason Oakes Avatar
      Jason Oakes

      The second-most requested BI feature will be for fantastic new technology to be hobbled into building “a faster horse”.

  14. Joy Richmond Avatar
    Joy Richmond


  15. Ragnar Avatar

    I cried. Funny, but probably also spot on.

  16. Mario DiGiovanni Avatar
    Mario DiGiovanni

    I luv it!