Speaking the language of business intelligence with an Australian accent

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Where is this BI thing headed?

The IT industry is dynamic, that's its nature and is what keeps me interested in my chosen profession on a day-to-day basis. From Mr Moore's ever-consistent law to the fact that there's always something new to learn on the horizon. The Business Intelligence part of the IT world is no less dynamic than any other, possibly more dynamic. Just when you think it is going to calm down and everyone comes to grips with the latest technology and ideas along come more mergers & acquisitions, new products, design paradigms many of which make us reassess the direction we (personally or the companies we work for) are headed. If you have access, Gartner's hype cycles are an interesting read when it comes to what new technologies are just currently fashionable or coming into their own as something seriously useful.

There have been lots of blips on the BI radar in recent years. In early 2003 MS said it was "really going to give this BI stuff a shot" on top of their already solid market position and one year later released Reporting Services and about 20 months after that SQL 2005. I remember reading the initial press release about RS (then codenamed Rosetta) and watching stocks in several major BI companies immediately dip 5%. Several months later we saw Brio and Crystal disappearing inside Hyperion and BO respectively. More recently we heard the news that ProClarity is to be acquired by MS. There have been so many others but these are the ones that stick in my mind.

Recently Google threw their hat into the BI ring so to speak. Not directly but through a partnership of sorts with Cognos, SAS and others. I share Chris Webb's sentiments on just how useful GoogleBox will be when it comes to presenting BI data to users. Nonetheless I am curious to see what will be on offer there and know that we should not underestimate Google. In Mark Miller's recent post he discusses what he calls the Second Generation of BI and also wonders what real value GoogleBox can offer from a BI sense. This will be an interesting space to watch.

BI has not gone unnoticed by the Open Source community either. Pentaho has been moving ahead with development of its toolset and management team in recent times. This is definitely something to watch out for. Update: JasperSoft is also making waves in this area.

Open source products along with development and integration of open standards like Web Services and XML/A are leveling the playing surface somewhat and are putting the focus back on grass roots BI & DW methodology. We're getting back to how you build your BI infrastructure as opposed to what you build it with or on - a good thing.

The Next Generation of BI?

The almost religious debate of Inmon vs Kimball seems to be calming down a bit these days with many taking a more Switzerland-style "best of both worlds" approach. However! Just when you thought the BI architecture paradigms were staying still, along come some new ones to leverage the new technology (and several Moore's & Kryder's years worth of power & storage) now available to us since Messrs. Inmon and Kimball put their ideas down on paper quite a few years back.

Bill Inmon has published quite a bit recently on what he calls DW 2.0 (requires free registration to read the articles, but there is a lot of detailed information here). For more of an overview have a look at this article.

Jamie Thomson's colleague Rob Grigg has been working with several MSFTies and recently published a paper on SoBI (Service Oriented Business Intelligence) which makes for very interesting and thought-provoking reading. They describe it as "an architectural framework that leverages the strengths of BI and SO". Great stuff.

So where's Ralph in all this? I wonder if he is working on his own version-next of the Kimball data warehousing methodology. We'll see...

Considering all of the above it seems that we're moving into a new phase; one where (hopefully) BI is always an essential, seamlessly integrated part of the enterprise, not just a bolt-on that is added as an afterthought because it will probably be useful. Some may argue that, in many businesses, this is already the case but I feel that these are still in the minority, especially when we're talking about mid-sized businesses.

On a lighter, but vaguely related, note. I had a bit of a laugh recently when checking my blog stats to find that someone had found my blog after doing a Google search on the phrase "bi curious". Somehow I don't think they were looking for more information on Business Intelligence.


AndyN said...

Interesting post Nick - keep it up! :)

Jerri Ledford said...

I agree with your post, Nick. The BI industry is in a state of flux--a lot of consolidation is happening. BI is finally at a stage where it's maturing, and that's good news for organizations that have been struggling with BI over the past decade.

There are many more thoughts about BI in my Computerworld Blog: http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/ledford

Christian Smyth said...
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