As 2012 comes to a close, it was undoubtedly a banner year for the business intelligence (BI) software market. So far this year, we’ve received requests from hundreds of businesses at SoftwareAdvice.com to help evaluate business intelligence applications. And there’s still 35 days left on the calendar!

So while Gartner labeled BI as the second-fastest growing market within enterprise software in 2011 (with approximately 16 percent year over year growth), I think 2012 will prove to be another year of substantial growth. IDC projects that the market will approach $33.9 billion by the end of the year, but are these projections low estimates for the market, as well?

I think there are three trends within BI and the users who use analytics applications that I think will impact the long-term potential of  the BI application market.

1. Small Business Users Warm-up to Analytics and BI Applications
A new generation of inexpensive, easy-to-use applications has shifted the attention of business analytics from the IT closet to the entrepreneur’s garage. These tools have made the formerly tech-adverse small business owner into an individual that loves to check website traffic or social media mentions daily.

In addition, many lightweight application platforms can help business owners organize their data to into one easy-to-digest source. Trendslide, for example, can integrate data from HubSpot, Marketo, Shopify, and Google Analytics, just to name a few. And with the most recent estimates finding just under 28 million small-to-medium-sized businesses within the US alone, that’s a large potential client pool that was previously went untapped by many data analytics vendors.

2. Managers Now Have Metrics Thanks to Visualizations and Dashboards
To improve, one must measure where they stand today. The problem for many managers, however, is they lack the time or access to insight that can truly help their teams grow and improve. With a number of applications that offer dashboards and visualizations, managers can quickly select the metrics they want to improve and receive a bird’s-eye view of where they stand.

The biggest leap in functionality in regards to these applications is “consumerization,” or in this case, the fact that business-line workers don’t need help from IT to analyst data or pull reports. This will lead to greater adoption and improved usage of BI tools within organizations.

3. Mobile Provides BI On-the-Go for Traveling Workers
Finally, mobile has had a strong impact on not just how we work, but how we interact with each other and the rest of the world in our everyday lives. Michael Saylor, chief executive of MicroStrategy writes in his book, The Mobile Wave, that he anticipates 5 billion smartphones in-use within 2 years, and 5 billion tablets within 10 years.

Vendors has responded with mobile apps for their most popular BI applications, include from traditional BI players such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP. Now, executives have access to key performance indicators whether they’re in hotels rooms, at dinners tables, or working out at on treadmills.

So, what’s next? I anticipate more work on social media analytics–namely, the integration of social data into the rest of the business’ information systems–will become important to both large enterprises and medium-sized corporations. This is an area I’m interested to see evolve over the next few years. But thanks to small businesses opening up to the world of analytics, and applications becoming both more mobile and more visualize, users will have the tools to take their business to the next level, and will be ready for the next-wave of analytical tools as they arrive.