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Business intelligence trends in 2002-3
As this is my first contribution to these columns for more than a year (fans - if I have any - may recall my writing under the pseudonym of "Dormouse") I thought I would start the New Year with my observations as to a couple of trends that have emerged during 2002, and which I expect to have an increasing impact this year. The first area that I want to consider is Business Intelligence.
Business Intelligence might be thought to be a fairly staid area where the market is mature. That is far from the truth. There are three trends that have appeared in the last twelve months. The first is the increasing recognition that most BI applications are little more than shelfware. Traditionally, BI applications have been sold, to use one vendor's analogy, as the means to "the democratization of data". However, in practice, most BI solutions have been complex to implement and tend to be used by power users only. This has left a gap in the market and all the relevant vendors are racing to fill this gap.
In practice, this means that suppliers such as Business Objects and Cognos are trying to move down-market, while reporting vendors such as Crystal Decisions and Information Builders are pushing up-market by increasing the functionality of their offerings. Perhaps most interesting of all, however, are new vendors introducing new products in between these two. For example, I have recently taken a detailed look at three of these in-between vendors: Noetix, Temtec and IntelligentApps, all of which are very different.
Noetix is a front-end query environment that is application specific. It was originally developed for use in conjunction with Oracle Applications though it has since been extended to support Siebel and PeopleSoft environments. By having an in-depth understanding of these application suites, Noetix can provide a much easier to use front-end than any of these vendors do themselves. In practice, this is delivered in an additional software layer that can be leveraged by other tools in the Noetix suite or by third-party query products, as appropriate.
Temtec, by way of contrast, is completely different. This is an OLAP Viewer. Such products have been around for some time but this is, arguably, the easiest to use of the whole bunch. What also makes Temtec interesting is that it has been a long time partner of Hyperion's (for use with Essbase) but it has now expanded its capability to support SQL Server Analysis Services.
Finally, IntelligentApps leverages Excel. This is hardly new - virtually every vendor in the market integrates with Excel. However, what IntelligentApps does is much more clever. Unbeknown to most people Excel has a built in OLAP database (which you cannot normally access), which Microsoft needs in order to support pivot tables. What IntelligentApps has done is to find a way to exploit this functionality. Put simply, you can define a spreadsheet with drill-down capability, as a single-user application. You can then automatically convert this application to use SQL Server Analysis Services and deploy the resulting application across the enterprise.
The interesting question then, is how much these newcomers, together with the reporting vendors pushing up-market, will encroach on the traditional BI markets? Let us leave that question for the moment and consider a second trend within the BI market, which is the move away from traditional business intelligence products. In particular, Cognos, Hyperion and SAS have all developed, or are developing, Corporate Performance Management suites.
Corporate Performance Management (CPM) is the name that Gartner gives to this sector. We understand that it would have preferred BPM as its initialism (acronyms, strictly speaking, are initials that form words that you can pronounce, like NATO) but, of course, BPM stands for business process management. Actually, I thought that CPM was an operating system but perhaps I am just showing my age.
Anyway the idea behind CPM is to integrate a variety of technologies that have traditionally been regarded as separate. This includes Financial Reporting and Consolidation, Business Modelling, Business Intelligence, Analytics, Dashboards, Scorecards and so on. This makes a lot of sense. Many of these applications use the same metrics, have similar presentational requirements, and utilise the same underlying business model. Integrating them into a unified architecture is an obvious move.
The trend towards CPM suggests that the BI vendors are moving up-market with their products rather than in the opposite direction. If this is true then it suggests that there is definitely scope for both reporting vendors and new entrants to make significant sales within the mid-market in particular.
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