Predictions For BI's Future

We asked some industry leaders for their boldest predictions about the future of business intelligence tools, and here's our collection of the most interesting ideas.

Image is everything. By 2009, image-recognition technology will become advanced enough to become integral to many business transactions. Real estate, for example, will be automatically appraised using images of the property. Insurance adjusting will be automatically determined using images of the damage. -- Richard Vlasimsky, chief technology officer, Valen Technologies Inc., Denver

The end of "gut feel." Within the next two years, using new approaches like statistical learning theory, corporations in industries such as banking and insurance will master the art of target marketing, increasing their response rates for product and service offerings by 400%. And within four years, gut-feel management will be replaced with real data-based decision-making. -- Joerg Rathenberg, vice president, KXEN Inc., San Francisco

A sixth sense. Over the next four to six years, BI systems will become embedded in small, mobile devices, such as manufacturing sensors and PDAs in the field, which in turn will be linked to more centralized systems. For example, BI embedded in the sensors at an oil refinery or manufacturing plant could analyze equipment conditions and detect the signs of major system failures. -- Erik Thomsen, distinguished scientist, Hyperion Solutions Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif.

Petabyte mining, no sweat. Within three years, companies and governmental agencies will be able to successfully run analytics within a centralized data warehouse containing 1 petabyte or more of data -- without performance limitations. -- Dave Schrader, technology futurist, Teradata, a division of NCR Corp., El Segundo, Calif.

Accountability matters. In the next 12 months, smart companies will be democratizing data access with dashboards and enterprise reporting tools. But even smarter companies will ensure that those BI systems have a robust ROI by making the masses accountable for data-driven action and results. The accountability could be in the form of rewards, penalties or simply a mandated workflow. An example would be deploying BI dashboards to logistics managers and requiring them to handle exceptions -- like abnormally low inventory -- within a specified window of time. -- Shruti Yadav, analyst, Nucleus Research Inc., Wellesley, Mass.

Radio frequency identification: Data overload? As RFID technology becomes corporate reality in the next 12 to 18 months, companies will be inundated with data on customer needs, preferences and behavior. But if they do not put in place the means to maintain the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of that data, their RFID efforts won't stand a chance of meeting expectations. -- Len Dubois, vice president, Trillium Software, a division of Harte-Hanks Inc., Billerica, Mass.

Mining the clickstream. Within the next two years, the term data mining will cover the analysis of all types of data, including any mix of database tables, free text such as call center notes and clickstream data, for example, without having to invoke separate technologies, approaches and tools. Within five to 10 years, data types such as video, images and speech will likewise be integrated. -- Colin Shearer, vice president of customer analytics, SPSS Inc., Chicago

Location, location. Over the next two years, the integration of location data, advanced location analytics and digital mapping will produce new, location-enhanced business intelligence applications. These tools will help executives, at a glance, answer questions about the characteristics of their best customers, optimal deployment of sales personnel or goods in specific geographic areas and the expected impact of marketing programs based on a region's demographic characteristics. --George Moon, chief technology officer, MapInfo Corp., Troy, N.Y.

Learning your mining habits. Within five years, there will be dramatic improvements in the usability and programmability of data mining tools. They'll even be able to track specific end users' decision-making patterns and preferences. For example, an application could record that a user always wants to look at revenue allocations in a pie chart -- never a bar chart -- and the user wants to see results for trailing 30 days first thing each day. It also learns that the user wants to do predictive analysis based on geography and product group to understand perspective gross sales. With this recorded information, a data mining model can be fine-tuned to make better, more accurate predictions because it has profiled the user's actual decision process. This will make our business intelligence applications smarter -- I like to call it "business intelligence for business intelligence" or "BI on BI." -- Douglas McDowell, principal consultant, Intellinet Corp., Atlanta

BI for IT. In the next five years, business intelligence will be embraced by IT departments to better manage the business of IT. As applications use more Web services and are comprised of more components, data mining of IT events will be used routinely to detect and prevent performance-related problems and predict future issues. These analytics will yield metrics that the business will use to measure the performance of IT. -- Edward Birss, vice president of engineering, Peakstone Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif.

Research and development goes mainstream. Within the next two to three years, high-performance computing technology used by scientific and engineering communities and national R&D labs will make its way into mainstream business for high-performance business analytics. This transition will be driven by the growing volume of complex data and the pressing need for companies to use forecasting and predictive analytics to minimize risk and maximize profit-generating opportunities.-- Phil Fraher, chief operating officer, Visual Numerics Inc., San Ramon, Calif.

BI meets AI.In the near future, business leaders will manage by exception, and automated systems will handle significant loads of routine tasks. Today, automated systems in banking match incoming customer requests and inquiries with basic cross-sell and upsell oriented advertising. Over the next five years, these systems will become increasingly complex by considering customer financial status and wealth, transactional history, and even family and business relationships, to produce complex man/machine interactions that resemble artificial intelligence. The viability of artificial intelligence to solve real-world problems is being made possible by the convergence of hardware capabilities (faster processors, memory expansion and higher bandwidth) and sophisticated software (neural networks, probability models and rules analysis). -- Mike Covert, chief operating officer, Infinis Inc., Columbus, Ohio

Visualizing the problem. Over the next two to three years, BI systems will automatically suggest appropriate visualizations, which in turn will dramatically increase the use of visualization and our understanding of complex relationships. -- Erik Thomsen, distinguished scientist, Hyperion Solutions

Getting in sync. Organizations won't be able to realize the true benefit of BI until two things happen:

  1. Greater synchronization of the data and metadata of all operational systems.
  2. There's a single intelligent data mart supporting a business performance management (BPM) suite.

Already, there's a natural convergence happening among BI, applications and BPM. Over the next five years, data and application-integration technologies will further open these BPM suites so operational systems can synchronize data and metadata, which will lead to a real-time or near-real-time view of an organization's performance. -- Trevor Walker, director of product marketing, Cartesis Inc., Norwalk, Conn.

Automatic insurance decisions. By 2009, 50% of all insurance underwriting decisions will be automated using data mining technology. -- Richard Vlasimsky, chief technology officer, Valen Technologies

Not just interesting info. Over the next two to four years, business intelligence will become increasingly infused into operational business processes. In effect, the consumer of business intelligence will move away from being an analyst who finds the information interesting toward the business processes and applications that take action based upon that insight. For example, in a contact center, customer-value analysis can be used to immediately route high-value customers to the most appropriate customer-service agents. -- John Coldicutt, global product marketing manager, Amdocs Ltd., Chesterfield, Mo.

Embedded BI.By the year 2006, data warehouses and traditional reporting systems will be obsolete because business intelligence will be done using advanced computer systems that can analyze data in the flow of transactions. Advanced analytics will allow for decision-making on the fly, and most business systems will have applications like CRM embedded in the transaction process. -- Michael Shultz, president and CEO, Infoglide Software Corp., Austin

First things first. In the next 12 months, BI vendors will continue to push users to standardize on their BI platform, using incentives such as customer credits for displacing competitors. But most customers will wait until they've standardized their own performance management practices and top BI vendors have integrated acquired software into unified suites. -- Shruti Yadav, analyst, Nucleus Research

Altruistic analytics. So far, predictive analytics have been applied where [there are] the biggest financial returns, such as customer profitability, or high-priority requirements like early detection of security threats. There have been successful applications in noncommercial areas such as analyzing data on brain tumors in children, predicting pollution incidents and discovering toxic hazards in food, but to date these are a tiny minority. Within three years, however, predictive analytics tools will be so widely available to workers in all areas that we'll see a huge increase in applications that benefit individuals or society without regard for direct commercial gain. -- Colin Shearer, vice president of customer analytics, SPSS

On-the-fly management. Businesses need more than a rearview mirror to drive their business forward into the next era. A new category of intelligence tools will emerge over the next two to three years that combines business process management, business activity monitoring (BAM) and business intelligence to enable the "actively managed enterprise." This will combine the scorecards and rearview-analysis capabilities of BI with the real-time, event-driven analysis of BAM and feed that information into automated business processes for on-the-fly steering of the business towards scorecard goals. This will exponentially elevate the speed at which businesses are able to operate, adapt and make critical decisions. -- Tim Wolters, chief architect of business activity monitoring solutions, webMethods Inc., Fairfax, Va.

Oops! Over the next three to five years, at least one Fortune 500 company will make a headline-grabbing, multimillion-dollar blunder because of poor data quality or lack of data integration. This will raise awareness that "one version of the truth" can only be achieved when data integration is included as a critical component of a business intelligence implementation. -- Bernard Liautaud, chairman and CEO, Business Objects SA, France

Special Report

The Future of BI

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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