Business Intelligence: Users Are Outpacing Vendors

Opinion: It's up to the business intelligence vendor community to take a broader view of their offerings and meet the rapidly growing needs of users.

The users of business intelligence are outpacing the vendors of BI software. Thats my conclusion after a round of talks and e-mails with users and vendors as well as looking at the expansion of the definition of BI in a world of social networks, sensor networks and corporate networks.

Consider the comments from three experts in the BI field including two prominent CIOs and one long-time consultant when I asked them to define business intelligence.

"We mixed, mashed and ETL our data to make nice little data warehouses. Our customers sliced, diced, graphed and analyzed all of this—all by themselves. Now what? Get ready for the next wave of technologies that will be tsunami in size—and probably not what you expected. Four key technology trends are sure to challenge your data teams in the future when it comes to creating Business Intelligence. The four megatrends in BI are: Geospatial, Collaborative B2B "things", the 4th Utility and Media Madness."

– Fran Rabuck, president of Rabuck Associates.

"I think BI today is more about helping drive revenue than putting financial indicators or dashboards on executives desktop. Sensors, and monitors are great, but in many cases, standard Web-based reports may well suffice for most of these reporting needs. In addition, most financial and budgeting applications are now building in some component of BI, usually OLAP, to enable financial dashboards and more drilling and pivoting through financial and budget data. Were doing precisely that at WWF, but it really still sits outside of our core BI initiatives, which focus on the following."

– Greg Smith, CIO of the World Wildlife Fund and author of "Straight to the Top: Becoming a World-Class CIO."

"Business intelligence has evolved from hypercubes of multiyear trend data to knowledge about real time events delivered just in time to empowered employees who can react instantly."

– John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School.

In this special report on Business Intelligence, youll be able to read the full descriptions of Business Intelligence from these experts as well as additional commentary on the changing definition of BI, new business intelligence products, a slideshow of eWEEK labs reviews of BI products and a roundup of recent BI news and analysis.

What became clear in preparing this report is how users definitions and expectations are exceeding the vendor offerings. Traditional BI vendors still seem to be concentrating on ever greater parsing of a companys financial data.


The vendors of new products that parse the blogging and social networks for the health of a companys brand dont really see themselves in the traditional BI category and vendors selling sensors that monitor electrical usage and production flow see themselves as addressing those narrow definitions rather than developing something new altogether.

Maybe just as mashup applications of social networks, user profiles and geographic data have changed the concept of consumer applications, something similar is needed for business intelligence.

The corporate users and analysts have caught on to this concept. Now it is up to the vendor community to take a broader view of their offerings and meet that need.


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