What will the future of business analytics look like? If only you could ask someone from the future for advice—or better yet, see it for yourself.

But you don’t need to be a time traveler to take a good guess: the future of business analytics is small business.

 CHALLENGE:  1 out of 3 small business leaders believe business intelligence (BI) and analytics will have a significant impact on their small business within 1-2 years. Your small business is tasked with making smart investments in BI software to maintain your competitive relevance.

 RECOMMENDATION:  To help your small business discern which BI software investments look most promising for first-time adoption, or to upgrade your existing capabilities, here are 7 predictions for the future of business analytics.

1. The race to BI adoption will be won by small businesses—not large corporations

 PREDICTION:  Over the next three years, small businesses will successfully adopt BI at higher rates than large corporations.

Companies with fewer than 100 employees are more than two times more likely as large organizations to report the highest rates of BI adoption. Large companies say they have more than 15 percent BI penetration into their workforce, but in small business this number doubles to 36 percent.

BI incentives for large corporations eventually experience diminished returns. Therefore, at the enterprise level, BI is used less to grow the business and more to increase operational efficiencies and cut down overhead costs. SMBs, with their greater ceilings for growth, are much more sensitive to BI’s impact, and use it to expand and gain customers. This may help explain their better BI adoption.

2. SMBs will deploy BI exclusively from the cloud

 PREDICTION:  By 2020, business intelligence cloud (SaaS BI) will be the only BI delivery model seriously considered by companies smaller than 100 employees.

Shifts in business intelligence delivery from on-premise to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will encourage small business adoption of BI tools. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the proliferation of cloud in business. According to Gartner, by 2020, a corporate “no-cloud” policy will be as rare as a “no-internet” policy is today.

Cloud deployments help reduce the cost of ownership and speed time to delivery for BI software. Small businesses typically don’t need to make considerations for vast databases of on-premise legacy content—as is often the case in large-sized companies—and can therefore more easily link their data sources with cloud-based BI software.

3. “Citizen” data scientists will put data scientists out of a job

 PREDICTION:  By 2025, citizen data scientists—professionals who use BI tools but are not data scientists by trade—will lessen the need for small businesses to hire dedicated data scientists.

Self-service BI tools have invented someone called a citizen data scientist. Self-service BI solutions are low-learning curve BI software. They feature accessible user interfaces to accomplish things such as data visualization, dashboard sharing, and report analysis without requiring users to have a background in statistical analysis. These types of tools are well-suited for small businesses to get up and running with BI.

By 2019, self-service BI users will produce more analysis than data scientists, says Gartner, and this output is being used to create data-driven culture.

Sam Underwood, VP of Business Strategy with Futurety, spotlights a trend in the marketplace. Vendors are starting to focus on employees who are likely managing data analytics on top of their core job responsibilities:

“One example is the evolution of data visualization tools from being very large and unwieldy to cloud-based, graphical, and simple to use (Google Data Studio, TapClicks). This new wave of data analytics tools makes it a breeze for anyone to get started in less than 30 minutes and start making their existing data work to drive new strategies,” Underwood said.

ashboard Creation Tools in Google Data Studio

Dashboard Creation Tools in Google Data Studio (Source)

4. Data will become even more personalized

 PREDICTION:  In the coming years, templated analytics reports will be replaced by personalized visualizations; insights will more frequently surface through algorithms and real-time AI suggestions—on whatever device the user prefers.

Harrison Doan, Director of Analytics at Loom & Leaf, a luxury mattress e-tailer, explained how personalization is on course to radically alter the future of business analytics in small business:

“Small businesses will endear their target audience to them. Whether it’s by creating personal home pages based on a customer’s browser, or algorithms that show recommended items like Amazon, hyper-personalization as a result of harnessing data analytics means a better experience for the consumer.”

Yet, for those that use BI tools on the backend, personalization has never been a strong suit of BI’s UX.

In the past, BI users used templated reports and visualizations with little customization. But cookie-cutter dashboards won’t meet your needs in the long-run. Your small business should prioritize the personalization of your BI software to allow your workers to work the way they want: That is the future of business analytics. If your users don’t like using your BI tools, they won’t.

5. Embedded BI means dashboards in your apps

 PREDICTION:  By 2021, Embedded BI will become the pivotal enabler for SMB BI adoption.

Embedded BI is the capability of injecting BI dashboards and analytic reports directly into an application. This allows real-time, in-app insights.

According to Gartner, “the ability to embed and extend analytics content will be a key enabler of more pervasive adoption and value from analytics.”

The idea is that BI will no longer be seen as this machine you fire up for insights, but will be baked-in with your critical apps, platforms, and systems. As Roman Rabinovich, VP of Business Development at Eventige, puts it “with embedded BI, SMBs won’t need to worry about the resources needed for data analytics.”

Embedded Analytics in Looker

Embedded analytics in Looker (Source)

6. You’ll stop searching for insight and start asking your software (very nicely) for it

 PREDICTION:  By 2020 natural language processing, chatbots, and voice recognition will be common methods of analytics queries and used to the same degree as traditional search.

According to Gartner (available to clients), by 2020, natural-language processing (NLP) will be the future of business analytics and a standard feature of 90 percent of modern BI platforms. Fifty percent of analytic queries will be generated using search, natural-language processing or voice, or will be autogenerated.

Voice recognition and chatbots are not just about convenience. They’re also about facilitating real-time insights that can quickly be acted on for business benefit. In addition, these services work to translate the language of analytics/statistics and output something more natural to the less tech-fluent user. If more people are able to understand and create value from BI tools, it will have a positive affect on your decision making.

7. ‘God save the data’ will be your rallying cry

 PREDICTION:  In five years, data governance will become a core module in every BI technology stack.

There is always a risk of making a poor decision based on outdated or wrong data analysis. But maintaining true, accurate, and unspoiled data is difficult. “God save the data” will be the rallying cry in your small business for two reasons:

1. Data governance will soon become a necessary module within BI tools to keep compliant with data regulations such as the GDPR or limit data exposures related to cybersecurity breach. BI cannot be practiced without first verifying the quality of the data to be analyzed.

2. Even the smallest of businesses are working with huge quantity of data—more than what is needed to gain impressive ROI from BI. From rewiring marketing campaigns for success, to blasting away operational bottlenecks like dynamite in a quarry, your small business could be benefiting from BI adoption right now, and should be.