Greater volumes of unstructured data, the impact of cloud computing solutions on the analytics market and new technologies such as mobile are among the key forces that are changing the face of business intelligence (BI) for many firms.

This is according to author and consultant Joe McKendrick, who stated in a piece for ZDNet that these are among the major trends that will shape the BI and data analytics markets this year.

He noted it will be important for businesses to react to these and ensure they have the most appropriate tools on hand for making the most of these developments. It will be essential for many organizations to upgrade their capabilities, as he claimed many enterprises are still stuck in the 90s when it comes to dealing with their analytics operations, despite the fact 21st century technologies have rendered many legacy solutions obsolete.

For instance, the rise of unstructured data requires modern tools, as legacy alternatives are unlikely to be able to cope with the huge volumes of information available. Mr McKendrick described this as a “vast unrealized and untapped resource” that businesses must act to take advantage of.

He observed many people recognize this information is out there and is rich for studying for insight, but executives may often not appreciate just how valuable this could be to their organization. Extracting insights from unstructured data – which the expert noted is the essence of big data analytics – offers opportunities for real and significant returns on investment.

“The insights that lie in big data are key to competitiveness in today's economy – offering insights to predict market shifts, understand customer behavior, optimize supply chains and develop product innovations,” Mr McKendrick stated.

Firms from a wide range of industries could be set to benefit from this. While many companies may look at strategies such as customer data analysis to find out where they can improve the experience they offer, this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

For instance, it was recently highlighted by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, authors of new book Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, that the healthcare sector may be better able to spot key genetic markers and identify common symptoms to help diagnose conditions, Meanwhile, safety inspectors in New York City have used big data analytics to uncover dangerous housing conditions more quickly.

It was also noted by Mr McKendrick that another innovation that is helping change the face of the BI and analytics market is the cloud. In the past, he said putting in place effective solutions could be a costly, complex and time-consuming process, but this is changing thanks to the new technology.

“Cloud is opening up business intelligence and analytics to more users – non-analysts – within organizations,” he stated. “There already is a drive to make BI more ubiquitous and the cloud will accelerate this move toward simplified access.”

At the moment, this is still in the early stages, with a survey by Saugatuck Technology suggesting only 13 percent of enterprises around the world use cloud-based analytics. But this is set to change very quickly, with use of the innovation expected to grow by 84 percent over the next two years.