What’s Not BI? Oh, Don’t Get Me Started....Oops Too Late...Here Goes....

My Forrester colleagues and I will be doing a TweetJam on Thursday May 13, from 2-3pm (eastern), on the topic of business intelligence (BI). 

If that topic sounds global, all-encompassing, and a tad nebulous to you, then we’ve succeeded. One of the favorite pastimes of BI analysts everywhere—not just at Forrester—is defining and redefining this uber-category known as BI. What exactly is it? Or rather—considering that almost every data management technology has been swept into BI’s gravitational orbit at one time or another by somebody somewhere—what is BI not? What’s analytics? What are decision support systems? How does this relate to knowledge management, content management, social media, and so forth. I even had a consulting client spontaneously grill me on all that yesterday in a face-to-face...um...talkjam (?).

We, the Forrester brain trust on all things BI and BI-ish, are going to jam our Twitterfingers silly on that very topic for an hour or so on that mid-May day. On that jam, in addition to @jameskobielus, you should be following Boris Evelson (@bevelson), Rob Karel (@rbkarel), Noel Yuhanna (@nyuhanna), Holger Kisker (@hkisker), Leslie Owens (@owensleslie), and Gene Leganza (@gleganza). You’ll also be able to roll up all of our tweets by searching on hashtag #dmjam (assuming we all remember to use it in all tweets—sometimes I’m remiss).

Rest assured that we’re all going to drill down to specifics very quickly. We’ll have a lively back-and-forth tweet-volley on this topic. It’s ongoing, of course, so you might have noticed that Boris already blogged his high-level perspective on the topic yesterday.

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Social CRM—Don’t Make It a Silo in Your Multichannel Strategy

Customer relationship management (CRM) has always been a multichannel discipline. You should connect and bond with your customers through whatever mix of channels they use or prefer. That has traditionally meant that existing channels be supplemented and extended by whatever new technologies come along. Hence, any enterprise serious about multichannel CRM has begun to add social media to a strategy that includes point of sale (PoS), direct postal mail, agent-assisted telephony, interactive voice response, e-mail, portals, and text messaging—at the very least. 

Social CRM is the newest craze in this arena. It refers generally to the convergence of social media with CRM. However, in the minds of some observers it seems to imply that social media will somehow become the most important CRM channel of all, marginalizing or obsoleting others. I take issue with that perspective, which threatens to turn social media, in all their billowing multiplicity, into a big new overstuffed silo in the CRM world. 

I don’t deny that social-networking interfaces are all the rage in the CRM space. One obvious case in point is salesforce.com’s Chatter collaboration platform, which looks and feels so Facebook-y that, navigating through it, I half-expect my cousins to be posting new vacation pictures to the community. 

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Oracle Puts Another Notch In Its Industry Apps Acquisition Stick

Today, Oracle announced yet another acquisition - this one of Phase Forward, a clinical research suite that helps life sciences companies manage their R&D process. Oracle paid $685 million in cash for this acquisition. While my research role focus does not encompass life sciences software specifically, Oracle's overall apps strategy is definitely of interest to me. My thoughts about this deal are as follows:

  • Oracle continues to aggressively acquire industry-specific applications to complement its core ERP solutions (e.g., EBS, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, and the yet-to-be-released Fusion Applications). Industry apps enable Oracle to achieve deeper relevance with specific types of businesses, and sell them additional products, including middleware, integration accelerators, BI, databases, core ERP applications, and now even computer hardware.
  • The Phase Forward clinical trials software puts Oracle into the mix in large pharma accounts, where SAP tends to have the lion's share of the wallet for applications.
  • Healthcare overall is a massive market opportunity for which Oracle has only scratched the surface. Oracle only recently established a Health Sciences Global Business Unit, and more acquisitions can be expected in and around the healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare provider solutions may fit into this build-out at some point.

Your thoughts on Oracle's apps strategy and portfolio? Feel free to comment here.

Business Capabilities Are The Strongest Foundation For Tech Strategy

In developing a technology strategy for your organization, what will be your basis for deciding which technologies to pursue, when to pursue them, and how to implement them? In other words, what will be the foundation for your technology architecture and strategy? In considering this question, I assume we agree that technology strategy should directly support improvement of business outcomes, both now and over the long haul. To provide for the long haul, your technology architecture and strategy must be crafted to support a continuous stream of business change, both small incremental steps and large radical shifts.

Your strategy could begin with a list of hot technologies — perhaps even ones that business colleagues are clamoring for — but how would you know which of them would lead to the most important improvements in business outcomes? You could begin with your top executives’ current business plans and strategies — which would clearly address today’s priorities for improving outcomes — but over the long haul, business plans change, sometimes dramatically, making them an unstable foundation for technology strategy.

Since the goal of technology strategy is to improve business outcomes, let’s refine the question with that as our focus: What basis for technology architecture and strategy:

(a) Aligns best with the ways that business leaders conceive, plan, execute, and measure improvements to business outcomes,

(b) Provides the best structure for building technology implementations that align with and facilitate the ways that businesses change both now and over the long haul, and

(c) Best guides the prioritization, planning, architecture, design, and usage of technology within business improvement projects?

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Harnessing Real-time Process Analytics: Forrester Analyst Video Jam Session and ITF Look-Ahead

What do you need for a full-featured process analytics platform? My Forrester colleague Clay Richardson and I discussed this topic in a recent video podcast, which we have posted on YouTube. Please look at this and tell us what you think. If you’re a Forrester customer, we would also love to see you next month, May 26-28, at the Forrester Information Technology Forum (ITF) in Las Vegas, where Clay and I will be exploring this topic on a panel session with colleagues Boris Evelson and Craig Le Clair.

Here’s a little peek ahead at what I plan to discuss in next month’s IT panel, which will extend upon the remarks in the video podcast as well as my musings in a blogpost from a few months ago. As I noted before, process analytics is all about identifying what works and doesn’t work. The first order of business for us is to identify the full range of enabling infrastructure and tools for tracking, exploring, and analyzing a wide range of workflows. It should support optimization of processes based both on historical metrics and on fresh streams of up-to-the-second key performance indicators (KPIs). And it should provide reports, dashboards, and other views and tools adapted to each role performed by each stakeholder in a business process.

Consequently, a process analytics platform should leverage tools and best practices in business process management (BPM), business activity monitoring (BAM), business intelligence (BI), business rules engines (BRE),predictive analytics and data mining (PA-DM), and complex event processing (CEP). The following graphic shows a high-level reference architecture for a process analytics platform:

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