BI's New Frontiers In 2008 And Beyond

Jameskobielus_9By James Kobielus

Business intelligence (BI) remains one of the most vital and innovative sectors of the data management arena. The past year saw BI achieve a new degree of importance in the solution portfolios of users everywhere. In fact, BI has begun to play into a much broader range of enterprise IT planning and deployment decisions than ever before. What follows are the most important trends that will continue to transform the BI industry, and add a new degree of complexity into decisions confronting CIOs, enterprise architects, and information and knowledge management professionals:

  • BI becoming SOA’s crown jewel: The past year has seen a rash of headline-grabbing M&A deals in the BI arena, with Oracle’s acquisition of Hyperion, SAP’s deal for Business Objects, and IBM’s pending takeover of Cognos—not to mention acquisitions of smaller BI and corporate performance management (CPM) application vendors by most of those firms. It’s far too easy to misinterpret these recent events as just more of the same M&A-stoked empire-building that we’ve come to expect from large IT solution vendors. What’s driving this recent industry consolidation—which is sure to continue in 2008--is growing vendor recognition that BI is the crown jewel in any comprehensive service-oriented architecture (SOA) solution portfolio. Though Oracle and SAP (and, to a lesser degree, IBM) already had decent BI wares in their respective SOA portfolios, none of them were on any enterprise’s short list of name-brand BI solution providers—until, that is, each of them decided to grab a leading BI pure-play. SOA suites cannot be considered feature-complete unless they incorporate a comprehensive range of BI features.
  • BI evolving into tailored business analytics: CPM—sometimes called “business analytics”—is rapidly becoming a key competitive front in the BI wars. Increasingly, BI/CPM vendors are offering tailored solutions for a dizzying range of horizontal business requirements and vertical industries. Vendors’ continued profitability also hinges on their ability to provide the professional services necessary to create, customize, and support business analytics for each vertical industry’s and specific customer’s unique requirements. Without a doubt, we’ll see further verticalization of product and service offerings by CPM vendors in 2008, which will provide a necessary hedge against the inevitable creep of commoditization into such horizontal analytics segments as financial, human resources, sales and marketing, and supply chain management.
  • BI going truly real-time through complex event processing: Complex event processing (CEP) promises business agility through continuous correlation and visualization of multiple event-streams. However, CEP has heretofore been conspicuously missing from the mainstream BI arena, necessitating stovepipe CEP implementations that are only loosely integrated with enterprises’ existing visualization, reporting, dashboarding, information modeling, metadata, and other BI infrastructure components. That will change big-time in 2008, as most leading BI vendors start to partner with CEP pure-plays, or acquire them outright, in order to strengthen their support for real-time event-driven applications. Indeed, we expect IBM to ramp up its CEP/BI integration now that it is acquiring both CEP pure-play AptSoft and BI/CPM vendor Cognos. AptSoft will also figure into IBM’s business process management (BPM) portfolio in support of closed-loop BI and business activity monitoring (BAM). We also expect to see SAP/Business Objects, Oracle/Hyperion, SAS Institute, Microsoft, Information Builders, and MicroStrategy venture into the CEP arena in the coming year. Likewise, it’s very likely that the newly independent Teradata, which has taken the lead in real-time data warehousing (DW), will snatch up a CEP vendor to build out its real-time BI portfolio.
  • BI bundling with DW appliances: Appliances have even begun to take up permanent residence at the heart of the enterprise data center: in the DW and BI infrastructures. Increasingly, vendors are focusing on integrating, packaging, and pricing their DW/BI products as pre-configured, modular appliances for quick deployment. These appliances consist of processing, storage, and software components that have been prepackaged, preconfigured, and pre-optimized for core DW/BI functions such as multidimensional online analytical processing (OLAP) queries, bulk data loading, and online archiving. The past year saw a growing range of DW vendors—including such DBMS powerhouses as IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft—reorient their DW/BI go-to-market strategies around the appliance model. In turn, leading BI vendors such as Business Objects and Cognos made a big push into the appliance arena. In 2008 and beyond, more and more DW vendors will pre-integrate BI solutions—their own and/or those of their partners—into their appliances. Increasingly, DW/BI appliances will be tailored, packaged, and priced for many market segments and deployment scenarios.
  • BI goes collaborative: Collective intelligence is an organization’s most precious asset. Traditionally, the BI industry has offered little to directly address one of the most critical components of group IQ: the collaboration environment. Instead, most BI applications focus on delivering targeted reports, analytics, dashboards, multidimensional visualization, and other key data to individual end users in isolation, rather than to larger business teams. In the past year, though, the BI industry has begun to roll out more collaboration features in their products—such as Microsoft with their new Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 solution--or, at the very least, to begin talking about new collaboration features to expect in the coming year. In 2008 and beyond, we expect to see the BI, collaboration, and knowledge management segments converge. Likewise, we expect to see such interactive Web 2.0 technologies as AJAX, blogs, wikis, and social networking revolutionize the BI experience. Many BI vendors now realize that decision support environments should allow users to access intelligence wherever it may reside, be it in data warehouses or in the heads of remote colleagues.

Going forward, Forrester will increasingly focus on the cross-synthesis of BI with all of these solution areas. We will provide best practices, methodologies, and tools to help customers sort through the myriad issues.