The Future of BI

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If traditional business intelligence solutions have made organizations more intelligent with refined data, predictive analytics is taking a great leap forward by making data much more intelligent. Predictive analytics software will change the way businesses operate -- making its deployment not an option but an imperative. Already today, ad hoc, reactive decision-making has become incompatible with international competitiveness. Armed with predictive analytics, organizations will increasingly be able to reliably extrapolate future behaviors and events, empowering them with data to make proactive decisions enterprise-wide. As the applicability of predictive analytics is virtually limitless, its future will be similarly unconstrained.

-- Jack Noonan, president and CEO, SPSS Inc., Chicago

Since its inception, business intelligence/business analytics has strived to empower business users to make sound decisions through the synthesis and delivery of accurate and timely information. What is changing is the way organizations get data from various enterprise applications, such as ERP or CRM systems, into the hands of knowledge workers. My prediction is that the data warehouse will be condemned because new BI/BA applications are emerging that pull live data directly from the system in which it resides, without the need for a data warehouse. This eliminates a costly and now entirely unnecessary step to the delivery of effective business intelligence.

-- Christopher Lenzo, director of Macola Products and Operations, Exact Software North America, Andover, Mass.

The most valuable commodity is time, so the future of BI is in making better use of it. PDAs and cell phones and highly efficient graphical front ends will allow knowledge workers to analyze vast stores of data quickly and intuitively, then automatically dial the associate, supplier or customer in need of their attention, then turn into an input device to record the event. All while walking through the airport. The promise of BI is to close the loop on the promise of computer science -- data automation, organization, deployment. The future will mobilize it.

-- Guy Amisano, president, Salient Corp., Horseheads, N.Y.

Advanced visualization tools have long been ignored as a serious business intelligence tool. The fact of the matter is, visualization is not just for pretty pictures. As business intelligence tools continue to advance in performance, speed and sophistication, advanced visualization such as interactive graphics, drill-down capability, 3-D simulations and more will be a critical component for organizations that need to make sense of and analyze massive amounts of multivariant data -- especially for performing predictive analytics. Visualization will finally get its due.

-- Phil Fraher, president and CEO, Visual Numerics Inc., San Ramon, Calif.

IT organizations acquire and implement sophisticated analytic solutions for many parts of the business; however, they are just beginning to apply these techniques to their own data and operational requirements. In the next three to five years IT organizations will broadly incorporate BI technologies, and predictive modeling and optimization techniques. Businesses will rely on IT's use of BI to model complex IT system behavior and make intelligent, automated decisions that minimize system downtime, reduce costs, drive operational efficiency and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

-- Tom Tobin, vice president of development and chief technology officer, Peregrine Systems Inc., San Diego

The next 12 months will see a proliferation of start-ups and business users converge around the need for operational intelligence based upon right-time business events. The network, not the data warehouse, will be the primary source of business event-based intelligence. The network will feed rich client and browser-based reporting studios via Web services, resulting in an unprecedented level of operational intelligence. Managers will enjoy interactive operations dashboards, refreshed at network speeds.

-- Michael Carter, co-founder and chief marketing officer, CXO Systems, Waltham, Mass.

By 2010, telematics data, transmitted wirelessly, will be combined with real-time analytics to enable trucking companies to optimize dispatching: Truckers will automatically be rerouted to avoid risky weather conditions or to pick up a load for haulback in an effort to minimize losses and maximize revenues.

By 2010, satellite imagery, combined with predictive analytics, will become engrained into many business processes. From valuing real estate to help preventing insurance losses, image-recognition techniques applied to satellite imagery will help business become more profitable.

By 2010, advances in gene research will enable life insurance actuaries to more accurately assess a person's life expectancy than ever before.

By 2010, insurance companies will automate twice the number of underwriting decisions they do today using predictive analytics. In doing so, they will increase their throughput, underwriting consistency and book performance.

-- Richard Vlasimsky, co-founder and CTO, Valen Technologies Inc., Denver

Business intelligence will become much more integrated into every business process. The summarized and contextual data will be fully integrated so that more decisions can be intelligently automated and when human intervention is required more contexts will be readily available to the knowledge worker for that decision. Imagine Google's Adsense technology being used to bring relevant business information to the context of your business application. Not only would this new BI technology bring in relevant textual information (as Google does) but also numerical information to support your current decision.

-- Russ Whitney, vice president of R&D, ProClarity Corp., Boise, Idaho

The voice of the consumer online will be playing an increasingly powerful role in business intelligence. Consumers are talking about every service, product and promotion out there on blogs, message boards, fan sites and chat rooms. As businesses come to realize the potential of the Internet as the world's largest focus group, and as they recognize that consumers' conversations across the Internet are an invaluable resource for customer profiling and for the measurement of consumer attitudes and perceptions, they will naturally gravitate toward the Internet to gather, quantify and qualify data for use in corporate planning and decision-making. Top brands are already starting to do so.

-- Pete Snyder, founder and CEO, New Media Strategies, Arlington, Va.

The BI market is mature and growth is slowing: The market has been consolidating for several years (Business Objects and Cognos are now dominant); vendors are running out of ideas and options to maintain revenue growth and so are, for example, significantly increasing license maintenance fees for no new functionality, or redeveloping products on J2EE platforms requiring significant new investment from customers. Customers have all made significant BI investments that have generally failed to show much return, and the systems are now developing the legacy attributes of being hard and expensive to change. However, processor performance will increase and get cheaper so some of the high-end software product features are no longer required for enterprisewide reporting. Consequently, we are seeing a gradual replacement of high-end BI products with lighter tool kits that are significantly cheaper to operate.

-- Jon Crews, business intelligence and management information solutions, PA Consulting, London

Using technology to establish and control access to customers -- right of way -- will be the key to success in an increasingly competitive business environment. This entails becoming truly customer-centered rather than sale-centered. It means using technology not just for the convenience of the business but for the benefit of the customer. And it means leveraging all the assets of the relationship to create and maintain a relationship based on trust and mutual benefit.

-- Arnold Brown, partner, Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., New York, co-author, FutureThink: How to Think Clearly in a Time of Change (Pearson Prentice Hall, October 2005)

The future of BI will link various legacy reporting systems from both inside and outside the corporation's firewalls in a network model, allowing executives to drill down from top-level revenue reports into the lifetime value of a particular customer segment. BI networks will become even more increasingly valuable as organizations start to build innovation networks that link together entire value chains.

-- Dirk Shaw, vice president solution strategy, Macquarium, Atlanta

As the power of the PC continues to increase, artificial intelligence applications will become more and more ubiquitous in the business intelligence arena. Over the next few years, we're going to see programs which were once accessible only to academia, the CIA and specialized teams become baseline applications in business schools and in every company -- large and small.

-- David Silverstein, CEO, Raptor International, Longmont, Colo.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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