Reporter's Notebook: Business Intelligence

The Big News

Business intelligence in 2006 will continue to emerge from its traditional confines of historical reports used by statisticians or business analysts. Instead, BI will deliver real-time or near-real-time data that employees at all levels of the enterprise can use to make daily decisions.

Many bleeding-edge companies began to tentatively explore this notion of "operational BI" in 2005. But I expect many more to move toward this new level of BI by shortening the time it takes to get data from transactional systems to a data warehouse and by linking BI with business process management (BPM) tools.

Speed the Feeds

The move to operational BI may mean eschewing the extract, transform and load tools that once were on any IT manager's checklist for a BI project. Instead, companies will need to feed data directly from transactional systems to a data warehouse so they can send fresh data to front-line employees and executives.

Klaus Mikkelson, global development leader at building materials company Owens Corning , now gets daily or twice-daily data feeds about gross margins from his warehouse from multiple ERP systems, using integration tools from Ascential Software Corp. This year, he says, he'll prepare for more frequent feeds.

BI vendors began forging close alliances with enterprise information integration vendors in 2005 to help users get a single point of access across disparate systems for speeding warehouse feeds, and I expect this trend to continue.

Microsoft Maneuvering

The biggest story of the year might be Microsoft Corp. muscling in on the market stronghold of traditional enterprise BI vendors. SQL Server 2005 will allow users who don't know how to use Visual Studio programming tools to build reports more easily. Microsoft already was gaining ground in the BI market with the BI reporting features that come free with SQL Server. These new features -- plus Microsoft's intention to provide added support for developing applications with the popular Excel front end -- will only make Microsoft's BI push more attractive to SQL Server and Office users.

It's all About Process

While 2005 saw the increasing intersection of BI and performance management, in 2006 more vendors will respond to user demands to link BI and BPM so users can take action when transactional data veers outside of normal ranges. But will these demands for process management give enterprise application companies like SAP AG and Oracle Corp. an advantage over traditional BI vendors? John Hagerty, an analyst at AMR Research Inc., told me recently that many users are looking to companies such as SAP, Oracle and Siebel Systems Inc. (which is now owned by Oracle) that have ownership of the enterprise application data and are infusing their applications with analytics and associated processes to take action on trends that surface. I expect BI vendors to come under pressure from these enterprise application vendors that have the ability to link BPM with BI. Many might align with BPM vendors or acquire technology to add to their product portfolios.

See more predictions for BI this year in Power to the People.

What else is on tap this year in IT? See the complete Forecast 2006 special report.

Special Report

Bold Predictions for 2006

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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