Friday, July 09, 2004

[news] A Special Report on Business Intelligence

Thursday, July 8, 2004
Dateline: China
One of my favorite industry trades, Computerworld, recently published a special report on business intelligence (BI).  (See .)  As regular readers of this blog know, I'm hot, hot and hotter on BI.  Not only are BI apps booming in their own right, but BI also provides an open door into other structured data apps (e.g., ERP and SCM).  Also, there is a burgeoning number of apps requiring both BI and knowledge management (KM) solutions, providing a host of new opportunities.  (For now, think of BI for structured data and KM for unstructured data.  But the lines between KM and BI are blurring.)
The Computerworld report includes an introduction to BI titled, "BI for the Masses," an introduction to Web harvesting, and a superb article on text mining; there are several online exclusives as well.  In this post, I'm going to focus on an article titled, "Predictions for BI's Future," by providing excerpts with commentary.  As usual, items in bold are MY emphasis; items in red are MY commentary.
Embedded BI.  "Over the next four to six years, BI systems will become embedded in small, mobile devices, such as manufacturing sensors and PDAs in the field, which in turn will be linked to more centralized systems." -- Erik Thomsen, distinguished scientist, Hyperion Solutions Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif.
PB DM (petabyte data mining).  "Within three years, companies and governmental agencies will be able to successfully run analytics within a centralized data warehouse containing 1 petabyte or more of data -- without performance limitations." -- Dave Schrader, technology futurist, Teradata, a division of NCR Corp., El Segundo, Calif.
HPC to the rescue!  "Within the next two to three years, high-performance computing technology used by scientific and engineering communities and national R&D labs will make its way into mainstream business for high-performance business analytics. This transition will be driven by the growing volume of complex data and the pressing need for companies to use forecasting and predictive analytics to minimize risk and maximize profit-generating opportunities." -- Phil Fraher, chief operating officer, Visual Numerics Inc., San Ramon, Calif.
BI meets AI.  "In the near future, business leaders will manage by exception, and automated systems will handle significant loads of routine tasks." -- Mike Covert, chief operating officer, Infinis Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Visualization.  "Over the next two to three years, BI systems will automatically suggest appropriate visualizations, which in turn will dramatically increase the use of visualization and our understanding of complex relationships." -- Erik Thomsen, distinguished scientist, Hyperion Solutions
BI + BPM + BAM.  "Businesses need more than a rearview mirror to drive their business forward into the next era. A new category of intelligence tools will emerge over the next two to three years that combines business process management, business activity monitoring (BAM) and business intelligence to enable the "actively managed enterprise." This will combine the scorecards and rearview-analysis capabilities of BI with the real-time, event-driven analysis of BAM and feed that information into automated business processes for on-the-fly steering of the business towards scorecard goals. This will exponentially elevate the speed at which businesses are able to operate, adapt and make critical decisions." -- Tim Wolters, chief architect of business activity monitoring solutions, webMethods Inc., Fairfax, Va.
Bottom line:  Go to a BI-related ACM or IEEE CS conference and you'll hear a lot of presentations on all of the apps described above.  It's where the rubber meets the road:  This stuff is real!!  However, it's important to differentiate "real" BI with much more simplistic reporting software (like a good "chunk" of the so-called BI solutions provided by Business Objects, Cognos and even Microsoft -- via their recent acquisition of ActiveViews).
A BI Site to Review
Last week I came across a paper published in the current issue of the Journal of Intelligent and Fuzzy Systems.  In this paper the project called "Data Mining and Decision Support for Business Competitiveness: A European Virtual Enterprise" (SolEuNet) is used as a case study and "the source of lessons learned."  The paper provides a link to the SolEuNet Web site (see ); at the SolEuNet site I found a wealth of case studies with supporting technical documents on leading-edge BI apps (see, for example, Workpackage 7 on "Combining Data Mining and Decision Support with Information Systems" at ).  Remember, strategy consulting isn't merely about comparing product specs (regardless what the IT advisory services may say).
The Gartner Conference on BI
I got my hands on three i-banking analyst reviews of the Gartner BI conference.  The Morgan Stanley report (dated 27 April) noted that customer activity levels appeared to be strong and "many seem to be taking a more strategic approach to BI, resulting in the emergence of larger transactions."  (My emphasis.)  Corporate performance management (CPM) is driving some of the larger deals, with Cognos and Hyperion taking the lead.  Evidently, systems integrators (SIs) are getting religion and developing collaterals around CPM messaging.  RBC Dominion Securities produced a more in-depth report (dated 29 April) and noted the following:
  • Gartner expects the market to accelerate in 2004.
  • The ETL (extraction, transformation, and load) market will flatten (finally).
  • CPM is hot.  "Hyperion, Cognos, and SAS appeared to be the best positioned non-ERP vendors to capitalize on the CPM market opportunity."  However, "(they) believe that SAP is the best-positioned large enterprise software vendor to execute in both the BI and CPM market ..."
  • Finally, the Gartner BI conference itself was hot, with 973 attendees, an increase in attendance of 70% over last year.
UBS chimed in with their own report (dated 30 April), which in some ways was a bit more technical than the other two reports cited above.  UBS noted that heterogeneous environments require independent tools (e.g., it is very difficult to get heterogeneous data into an ERP data warehouse <DW>).  Gartner's rule of thumb is that an ERP-derived BI/DW solution should be on the short-list only if more than 60% of an organization's BI data resides within that single app vendorUBS also noted that the importance of BI is leading to the formation of BI competency centers.  They also believe that SAP and Microsoft remain significant long-term threats to the independent software vendors such as Cognos and Business Objects.  BTW, all three reports seemed a bit down on Business Objects.
Another Computerworld feature on BI
Sometimes advertorials can be a good thing.  A case in point is the 26 April issue of Computerworld which provides a link to a new, six page Computerworld White Paper on BI.  The paper is titled, "Charting the Course: A Guide to Evaluating Business Intelligence Products"; it's a good, practical read.  Tactical, product spec advice and guidelines, but still a good read.  The PDF can be found at .
Recent Tidbits on BI
The New Straits Times (Malaysia) via Asia Africa Intelligence Wire reported on 24 June that SAS "expects the BI market in Asia to register double-digit growth for the next five years.  (Don Cooper Williams, director of marketing and alliances for SAS Asia-Pacific) cites a recent report from research house International Data Corp, which predicts that BI software market in the region (excluding Japan) to grow by 12 per cent this year, up from 7.5 per cent in 2003."  Note to SIs in China:  BI isn't just hot in the States; leverage your skills for serving the U.S. market and the domestic market.
From the channel, India Business Insight (also via Asia Africa Intelligence Wire) on 31 May announced that "Business Objects has entered into a long-standing systems integrator agreement with Wipro Infotech (WI) to provide business intelligence (BI) solutions to customers."  Note to SIs in China:  Don't be left without a dance partner.
Additional Articles for Review
I did a quick scan of trade lit and found a few articles worth reading.  First, the March-April issue of Financial Executive talks about CPM -- Corporate Performance Management -- as it relates to BI.  The May issue of Insurance & Technology takes a vertical look at BI (rather basic apps), as does the April issue of Business Credit.  Always think verticals.
A Final Wrap (or Should I Say, "Rap"?)
Back to Computerworld.  More specifically, see the 29 March issue of Computerworld.  According to a survey conducted by IBM Business Consulting Services, BI is a high priority on the plate of C-level execs.  In a Computerworld poll, 39% of IT executives listed business intelligence projects as their most critical IT projects.  By 2005, market research firm IDC projects that the worldwide market for business intelligence software will total about $6 billion -- up from $2.5 billion in 2003 -- signaling a major increase in business intelligence projects.  IT executives say the skills they need on business intelligence projects include systems integration, data modeling, database administration, data standardization and project management.
David Scott Lewis
President & Principal Analyst
IT E-Strategies, Inc.
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