On May 13th, Forrester analysts Boris Evelson, Jim Kobielus, Gene Leganza, Holger Kisker and Noel Yuhanna joined me in hosting a data management TweetJam on the topic “What BI is Not!” using the hashtag #dmjam. (You can still see the results and ongoing conversation if you search the hashtag.)
During this one-hour TweetJam, we asked the following questions, leaving 10 minutes of Tweet-time between each question:
Do you prefer the broad or the narrow definition of BI? Should ETL, DQ, DW, MDM be considered part of BI?
How should we differentiate BI and analytics?
What’s the difference between business intelligence and other forms of “intelligence” like competitive intelligence, market intelligence?
Is convergence of structured and unstructured information hype or reality?
Is BI looking only through the rear-view mirror, or should historical and predictive BI be one and the same?
How will social media impact traditional BI?
The response to this event was extraordinary, and we have a large community of data management and BI thought leaders who joined the conversation to thank. During that single hour there were over 360 Tweets with 65 unique Tweeters actively joining the conversation (not including those who only listened). If you include Tweets leading up to the event and the continued conversation after the event, we’ve seen over 480 Tweets and over 100 Tweeters … and growing.
But what did we accomplish (aside from providing an entertaining distraction for a number of people)? Below, I’ve summarized a sampling of the takeaways that were shared by some of our participants on each question:
1. Do you prefer the broad or the narrow definition of BI? Should ETL, DQ, DW, MDM be considered part of BI?
I get this request almost on a weekly basis: "Boris, my BI vendor is offering me the following discount, is it a good deal or not?" The first question is what are you comparing it to? It reminds me of an old joke: Q. How much is 5 times 5. A. Depends on whether you're buying or selling. Many of the vendors do not publish or reveal list prices, or even if they do, they are revealed only under NDA to each client, so good luck comparing what the vendor told you and what they told another client. So what ARE you comparing it to?
Another problem, IMHO, is that many of the vendors muddy the waters with CPU based prices, clock speed based prices, etc. Yes, CPU, server, core based prices make sense if you are growing and want to lock in a good deal now, before you grow and expand. But in the end, you, the buyer, still need to figure out how much the software costs you per seat, per user. So with both of these challenges in mind I looked through my 20+ years of notes on BI contracts and per seat license costs and came up with the following. Notice, an interesting X-factor (obviously, I fixed the numbers a bit to have it look nicely like that):
BI output consumer, no interactivity $300
BI output consumer, with light (sort, filter, rank) interactivity $600 (or 2x)
BI output consumer with heavy interactivity (interactive dashboards, search, etc.) $1,200 (or 4x)
My friend and highly respected colleague, Wayne Eckerson from TDWI, posted a great article called “Purple BI People”. In the article he described some of the best practices for business and IT alignment, and cross-functional skills sets needed for successful and effective BI professionals. Wayne, I loved the blue cow analogy, you know that I always think in metaphors, analogies, similies and associations. But, while I completely agree with Wayne in his near term assessment, best practices and recommendations, I would like to suggest another long term point of view.
Can business and IT ever align on BI? Can business ever be satisfied with IT for delivering successful and effective BI applications? Is there such a thing as BT (Business Technology, the phrase that Forrester coined and promotes) in BI?
I used to think we could deliver on that promise. Not so sure it’s that straightforward now. Just look at some of the hopelessly diametrically opposing business and IT priorities. I hear the following complaints from my clients day in and day out:
Business is all about revenue generation. While IT can support that, much more often cost cutting is IT's highest priority.
Business wants solutions now. Not tomorrow. IT needs to go through due diligence of testing and approving BI applications. Right now, on demand does not sit well with IT.
Business wants to react to constantly changing BI requirements. IT has to plan.
Business sometimes is willing to do something “quick and dirty” – even at the expense of potentially jeopardizing accuracy and adherence, compliance with standards. IT is all about compliance and sticking with standards.
I have long resisted and will continue to resist for the foreseeable future any notions that the BI market is commoditizing. A single simple look at the BI maturity in enterprises and next gen BI technologies is a simple proof that we are far, very far, from any kinds of commoditization. Consolidation is quite a different story. Last week's SAP acquisition of Sybase and my roaming the exhibitor / partner floor at SAPPHIRE in Orlando are two more proofs. On a huge SAPPHIRE exhibition floor I could count software partners by the number of the fingers on my hands. Why? Because everyone who matters has been acquired by a competitor! Most of the exhibitors were management consultancies, systems integrators and other SAP implementation partners. Hence, a lesson to independent BI vendors: offer your own full BI stack or position yourself for an acquisition. No other long-term options in my mind.
But as always I welcome all and any comments and opposing views.
SAP gets its own relational (Sybase ASE) and analytical (Sybase IQ) DBMS. Why is this a positive since SAP already has tight partnerships with major DBMS and DW vendors such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Teradata, and HP? Simple. First, SAP can now control the code. Second, SAP can now potentially reduce reliance on DBMS partners, most of whom (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft) have their own full software stacks and therefore compete, often putting a strain on partnership relationships. True, Sybase ASE has a rather low market penetration, other than on Wall St (see Stefan Ried's blog), but since SAP BW takes care of most of the traditional RDBMS design and implementation tasks, Sybase could be positioned as a black box engine under BW, that does not require separate design, administration and maintenance environment. *** Update. SAP just confirmed that each of its applications can run on an independent database, so having mixed DBMS platforms under ERP and BW will not be an issue.
SAP also gets highly relevant (for low latency BI) and currently missing CEP technolgy from the Sybase Aleri acquisition and an OEM version of Coral8.
SAP customers may also benefit from advanced analytics from Fuzzy Logix, integrated and embdded in SybaseIQ
Sybase gets a badly needed BI front end on top of its Sybase IQ analytical DBMS. While Sybase is leading the market in the columnar DBMS, it is somewhat challenged selling and positioning the product with the business buyers, since they can’t really see, feel, or touch it.
When preparing for our upcoming Forrester Data Management Tweet Jam (May 13th, 2-3pm ET) -“What BI is Not!”- I got together with a few of Forrester’s data management and BI analysts to discuss some of today’s key BI questions.
The question on the table was, “How will social media impact traditional BI?”