Let's stop agonizing about BI positioning - InformationWeek

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11/21/2007
05:08 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Let's stop agonizing about BI positioning

I'm getting pretty tired of the agonizing whether recent market events and trends mean the end of business intelligence as we know it. Some of my fellow pundits are scrutinizing vendor consolidations and they're studying the impact of the emergence of new analytical approaches and application-delivery methods. Consolidation will mean a refocusing of product development for acquired vendors, that's all, not "the end of BI as a separate application."

I'm getting pretty tired of the agonizing whether recent market events and trends mean the end of business intelligence as we know it.

Some of my fellow pundits are scrutinizing vendor consolidations and they're studying the impact of the emergence of new analytical approaches and application-delivery methods. Consolidation will mean a refocusing of product development for acquired vendors, that's all, not "the end of BI as a separate application" as Ephraim Schwartz, for instance, sees it. Schwartz acknowledges authoritative views that are contrary to his — "As Howard Dresner, principal at Dresner Advisory Services, says, 'For every vendor that is acquired, there are 20 emerging companies offering new approaches, technologies, and business models.'" — but dismisses them and slights the impact that Software as a Service, SaaS, has already had on BI.Recent developments and industry trends are signs of vibrancy and not of category submergence. Can I convince you of that so we, collectively, can refocus on better analytics and away from obsession about market positioning? Consider:

  • Hosted BI, also known as "on demand" BI delivered as Software as a Service, SaaS,
  • Operational BI, that is, analytics done without (exclusive) reliance on a data warehouse,
  • Visualization and visual analytics,
  • Text-BI and search-BI, which bring data from new sources and provide new (to BI) information-access methods,
  • Open source BI developer tools, which have made it cheap and easy to embed BI in bespoke applications,
  • Location intelligence, or BI on/with geospatial data, including via mash-ups, and
  • Emerging (but not there yet) approaches to collaborative analytics.

These are all forms of BI. They all fit Wikipedia's definition of business intelligence, "technologies, applications, and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information and also sometimes... the information itself." (I wrote that part of Wikipedia's BI entry and some of the rest of the entry, most of which is in dire need to a rewrite.) And they're being developed and delivered by a disparate variety of vendors, some small and some large, some in embedded (line-of-business) form and some as "point" analytical solutions. They're all generally understood to be BI, part of a vibrant BI category.

My bet is that we'll be using BI and associated software tools — reporting, pivot/OLAP analyses, ETL, and all the rest — ten years from now, and that because BI is about information and processes and not just software, we'll still be terming what we do and most of the software tools we use "BI." The term "business intelligence" was first used almost fifty years ago and has stood the test of time. So let's stop agonizing about technology positioning and refocus on what BI is for: supporting better enterprise decision making.


Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He consults on data management and analysis systems.I'm getting pretty tired of the agonizing whether recent market events and trends mean the end of business intelligence as we know it. Some of my fellow pundits are scrutinizing vendor consolidations and they're studying the impact of the emergence of new analytical approaches and application-delivery methods. Consolidation will mean a refocusing of product development for acquired vendors, that's all, not "the end of BI as a separate application."

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