Information Convergence Is a Work in Progress - InformationWeek

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4/19/2007
10:32 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Information Convergence Is a Work in Progress

John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, yesterday gave a keynote address at AIIM Expo entitled "The Parallel Evolution and Convergence of Enterprise Content Management and Business Intelligence." The title notwithstanding, I didn't hear a lot of concrete examples of convergence in the speech, but there are signs the worlds of data and content are slowly coming together.

John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, yesterday gave a keynote address at AIIM Expo entitled "The Parallel Evolution and Convergence of Enterprise Content Management and Business Intelligence." The title notwithstanding, I didn't hear a lot of concrete examples of convergence in the speech, but there are signs the worlds of structured data and less-structured content are slowly coming together.As thought-provoking and well-presented as Schwarz's speech was, it was really Business Objects' Business Intelligence 2.0 vision statement with a few comments about unstructured information thrown in to please the AIIM crowd. Describing a revolution in BI and IT generally, Schwarz described five key trends:

● A network revolution in which enterprises, partners and customers are interconnected, enabling cross-enterprise sharing of information and, for example, pooling of buying power, workforce balancing or supply chain/manufacturing efficiencies. ● A user revolution in which individuals gain easy access to information (both structured and unstructured) through their device of choice (PC, Blackberry, cell phone, etc.) ● A community revolution in which collaboration fosters better, collective intelligence. ● An application revolution in which business users can mash up applications and data sources rather than waiting for IT to write code and build connections. ● A platform revolution in which proprietary systems get wrapped in services and open standards foster unfettered access to heterogeneous systems and information sources.

In his discussion of the Network revolution, Schwarz noted that "tomorrow [metaphorically speaking], Business Objects will add e-mail messages, documents and even images and other media content to our information domain to making it possible to search unstructured content and include it in BI analyses in a seamless way."

I suspect what Schwarz is talking about is a text-mining approach in which key entities (people, places, things and concepts) are culled from documents using extraction technology (from the search world), placed in tables and analyzed like any other structured information to decide what the related documents and collections are about. SAS and specialized text-mining vendors have been doing this kind of analysis for years. I think what most businesses are after, however, is simply getting secured and controlled access to all forms of information in a consistent way, which is an information management (rather than analysis) problem.

To me it's as plain as day that IBM and Microsoft are leading the way in converged information management (Oracle and SAP are certainly aware, but they're not pressing as hard). IBM last year introduced its Information Server, which is a first-generation Uber-management layer that can serve up all forms of information to business processes, applications and human-facing portals. Last month it also added extraction and mining of unstructured information as part of its data warehouse systems. Microsoft's answer to convergence leads with SharePoint, which is clearly more about human access to data and content - a natural fit with its Office suite.

Companies aren't looking for "convergence solutions," but they do know that business processes, applications and collaboration often require access to both structured data and less-structured documents. The next step will be getting at everything that's relevant to a process, app or discussion in a consistent way, and you can bet that the industry giants will be in the best position to provide unified access to all forms of information.John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, yesterday gave a keynote address at AIIM Expo entitled "The Parallel Evolution and Convergence of Enterprise Content Management and Business Intelligence." The title notwithstanding, I didn't hear a lot of concrete examples of convergence in the speech, but there are signs the worlds of data and content are slowly coming together.

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