I've been in the BI business for over 25 years so I've seen many ups and downs in the BI cycle. We are definitely in the "up" cycle these days. I see two main reasons for it:
Enterprises can no longer stay competitive just by squeezing more efficiencies from operational applications – business intelligence applications are needed to become more effective.
Digital data (structured and unstructured) volumes are growing at 30% a year, and will be reaching zetabyte sizes by year 2010 – that’s a number with 21 zeros! Solid BI implementations will be critical to successfully turn that data into useful information.
Does anyone have any comments on where we are in the BI cycle and what are some of the more recent key drivers?
Adobe has put an end to much speculation, announcing that it will take Flex into the open source realm and make the source and documentation available under the Mozilla Public License. This move certainly ratchets up the battle between Flex and Microsoft’s Silverlight technology — both are used to create rich Internet apps. Microsoft has targeted Flash and Flex, so Adobe apparently has come to believe that open source is the best option for gaining ubiquity for Flex. Traditionally, Microsoft has had the edge with developers; Adobe with designers. Adobe is clearly hoping this move will shake that up.
Organization’s learning leaders hear the words “informal learning” or “eLearning 2.0” and think, “Oh my, now we have to change the way we provide training!” Yes, you may want to make some changes but, more importantly, you need to look at existing learning within your organization and determine what is training and what is education or development. I see two distinct types of learning that are both complementary, but also dramatically different. Today’s knowledge workers need both.
Training refers to the learning that employees access in order to do their job. This includes traditional mandated training for fields like accounting or pharmaceuticals. But a large percentage of training should be the “just-in-time” kind that gives the employees the information or knowledge refresher that they need to continue their work task. This informal learning is driven by the employee and is generally not tracked except to indicate the number of employees who have accessed the sites. Examples include online mentoring, clicking on the “just-in-time” learning related to the work topic for a three-to-five minute learning nugget, accessing the context-sensitive learning built into the application, or clicking on “expertise location” on the intranet to find a person in the organization who has the expertise to help. This kind of training or knowledge seeking requires a good search engine to find a document, PowerPoint, video, blog, wiki, etc. on the organization’s intranet site. A good practice is to make the five to ten-minute learning objects or course components searchable so an employee can find the exact part of a module or course that will provide the assistance they need.
The WCM vendor landscape has shifted again, as global information management solution vendor SDL has announced that it will acquire Tridion. SDL and Tridion are touting the complementary functionality of SDL’s translation management capabilities and Tridion’s WCM product, and the inevitable tighter integration between the two. The acquision certainly provides Tridion more stability, and gives the soon-to-be-christened SDL Tridion a strong Web content globalization story. This should also give Tridion leg up in the US; Tridion has opened two US offices over the past year or so in an effort to target the North American market, but SDL already has a bigger field organization there.
My take: this isn't an earthshaking announcement, but Tridion and SDL are stronger together than they are apart. For Tridion customers, the good news is that Tridion and SDL don’t have overlapping technologies, so this acquisition shouldn’t lead to any forseeable pain for future upgrades. And the Tridion management team will be in place for the next two years, lending some stability to the acquisition.
SDL and Tridion will be announcing a technology roadmap and integration timeline sometime in the next six weeks. Stay tuned.
Connie, Erica and I attended Adobe's analyst days this week in New York, and Connie and I had a chance to sit down with Bruce Chizen, Adobe's CEO, over lunch yesterday. Adobe is a major player in the Web 2.0 universe, with Flash (and the new Apollo technology) competing with Ajax-based technologies for creating rich internet apps (RIAs).
While Ajax is more open, Flash nonetheless can boast better cross-browser and cross-platform support, especially when moving into the realm of mobile devices. Ajax can run into problems just between Internet Explorer and Firefox, but the Flash player works in both browsers as well as in Safari — and on Linux too. In the mobile, world, Adobe showcased a first-of-its-kind tool for testing how a Flash movie looks on a variety of different cell phone models, with extremely rich metadata about each device. It was able to simulate things like the appearance of the screen outdoors vs. indoors, and the performance of a movie on different phones. We also saw a Sony PlayStation 3 running on Flash content.
One interesting question was about whether PDF was threatened by Microsoft's recent moves to create a replacement standard in its XML Paper Specification (XPS). Bruce's answer was, to paraphrase, "No." He believes — and I agree — that it's too late to displace PDF with any format, and especially not with one whose promoter has the goal of selling Windows and Office in mind. Adobe's recent submittal of PDF to the ISO will really help its adoption in government, too.
After we leave formal education settings, 80% of our learning is of the informal kind; yet only 20% of corporate education dollars are spent on what is most important to us as employees.Why are corporations spending 80% of their employee education dollars on that modest 20% of the learning we do?
So, what is informal learning? It’s that unplanned discussion with a colleague over an issue you don’t understand and glimpsing a new perspective on how to deal with an issue that has arisen. It’s sending an IM to a remote colleague to get information on how the company is implementing a procedure, and then setting up a 10-minute phone discussion to go deeper. It’s bouncing ideas for a new project off a colleague, then asking her to question your perspectives—like a kind of informal coach. These sound like things we do every day, right? Some corporate cultures actively encourage and support these informal ways of learning through trust, technology—IM, Expert Location, or good intranet search capability—and a supportive culture, while others frown on “taking time away from work” to talk to colleagues.
I recently spoke with an IT manager who came up with a great analogy for a problem I continue to see in the WCM space. He was telling me about how much customization his team has needed to do while implementing a WCM solution, and how he expected some features to be more out-of-the box, like advanced content authoring tools. He commented, “At Christmas time, the vendor sent us one of those gift baskets that vendors sometimes send. You know what those baskets are usually like - wine, cheese, candy. But you know what they sent us in this year’s basket? Brownie mix. We had to bake our own holiday gift. I wanted to call them up and tell them, ‘This is exactly what is wrong with your product!’"
I’ve already blogged here about how much I enjoy using Office 2007. Today I wanted to blog about wikis and blogs. I opened up Word 2007 since I generally like to create things locally and then push them up to the network when I’m ready. I opened Word and clicked on “New” and found two choices; “Blank document” and “New blog post”. Well, that’s kind of cool. Microsoft has already integrated Word and blogging. Might even be able to use Office Live for that...
This brings me to a question that I’ve been hearing a lot from clients lately: Is Microsoft serious about wikis, blogs and other emerging aspects of social computing? The answer is a resounding YES. Wikis and blog are tools for creating content and collaborating. These are markets that Microsoft takes very seriously.
If you haven’t had a chance to familiarize yourself with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 yet, take a look at the social computing functionality. SharePoint now has the ability to generate wikis and blogs as template types. While SharePoint’s implementation may not be as elegant and full featured as some of the new pure-plays, it is completely and seamlessly integrated into their flagship collaboration product. (Apologies to the folks in Exchange, but let’s face it, you’re email, SharePoint is collaboration) What does this mean? Well here are just a few examples:
Every blog and wiki can be real-time enabled with presence, IM etc. if you are running Office Communication Server
Wiki and blog templates can be augmented through the addition of web parts
Templates can be customized and extended through the use of SharePoint development tools
Since Oracle really never competed toe to toe with IBM on applications and BI, the Hyperion acquisition is of a smaller significance for IBM than to other BI vendors. Watch for Oracle to acquire BEA, TIBCO or Informatica to leapfrog IBM in the EAI or middleware space.
It would be logical for IBM or SAP to pick up Cognos (not Business Objects, since it is still going through multiple product integration challenges) as the logical next large BI acquisition. SAP will probably make the first move, and once that happens, the IBM will look at Microstrategy or Information Builders as an alternative BI acquisition.
HP also clearly wants to be a BI player: they recently acquired a top boutique BI Systems Integrator, Knightsbridge, developed an integrated Data Warehousing platform – Neoview, and its NonStop database is used in some of the largest DW implementations. We would not be surprised if the next large BI acquisition comes from HP.
An orthogonal move could come from EMC or Sun, who have been Information Management players for years, with BI being a natural addition/extension. Notably absent from the rumors is Teradata, which in our opinion has to diversify into more layers of the BI “stack” beyond data warehousing to keep its competitive position.
A clear implication of this acquisition is for Oracle’s pureplay BI competitors: Cognos, Business Objects, Microstrategy, SAS and Information Builders, since a combined Oracle/Hyperion BI offering with best of breed components in every layer of the BI “stack” will become increasingly difficult to beat. While many of these vendors were quick to issue statements that they view this transaction as an "opportunity they intend to take advantage of" and that they remain "clear leaders" in the space, it is very clear that they are, as they should be, very concerned of Oracle's new position.
The transaction also has potentially huge implication for Microsoft, which has been giving away its OLAP product, Analysis Services, as part of SQLServer. While Oracle is also packaging OLAP (Express) with its relational database, it was always considered a lower end product to Microsoft. If Oracle decides to bundle Essbase as part of its overall database license, it could make significant cuts into Microsoft’s OLAP market share.