The future of business intelligence

Our call for predictions about the future of business intelligence yielded a bountiful crop.

In five years, 100 million people will be using an information-visualization tool on a near-daily basis. And products that have visualization as one of their top three features will earn $1 billion per year. -- Ramana Rao, founder and chief technology officer, Inxight Software Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.

Within three years, users will begin demanding near-real-time analysis relating to their business -- in the same fashion as they monitor stock quotes online today. Monthly and even daily reports won't be good enough. Business intelligence will be more focused on vertical industries and feature more predictive modeling instead of ad hoc queries. -- Thomas Chesbrough, executive vice president of Thazar, a Skywire Software company, Frisco, Texas

Like standards in manufacturing for product quality, "data certification" will become a critical standard in the next three years for ensuring that vendors, customers and suppliers who acquire and/or share third-party data can measure the quality of that data before it's purchased or used. With a formal methodology, published set of criteria and certification test, information purchasers will be able to analyze data for appropriateness -- and request discounts for any deficiencies. -- Frank Dravis, vice president of information quality, Firstlogic Inc., La Crosse, Wis.

In the next three years, companies (and their business managers) will become utterly dependent on real-time business information, in much the same way that people expect to get information from the Internet in one or two clicks. This instant "Internet experience" will create the new framework for business intelligence, but business processes will have to change to accommodate and exploit the real-time flows of business data. -- Nigel Stokes, CEO, DataMirror Corp., Toronto

Companies are drowning in terabytes of data. In order to exploit the growing ocean of data, businesses will focus their business-intelligence spending in the next three years on technologies that address the inefficiencies of the underlying data storage, rather than the already powerful analytic applications. -- Foster Hinshaw, chief technology officer, Netezza Corp., Framingham, Mass.

In the next two years, business-intelligence capabilities will become more democratized, with a far greater number of end users across the enterprise using the tools to get better visibility into the performance of their segment of the business. Think of it as executive dashboards for worker bees. -- Steve Molsberry, senior consultant, Stonebridge Technologies Inc., Dallas

Business-intelligence data is what allows a company to grow and exploit future opportunities and, as such, is the target for corporate espionage, computer crime and terrorism. Stealing existing financial assets creates little overall impact. Stealing a company's information assets diminishes its ability to compete in the future. This will be the year that corporate boards and shareholders ask questions about what companies are doing to protect their information assets, which will trigger more IT security spending in 2004 and 2005. -- Ryon Packer, vice president, Intrusion Inc., Richardson, Texas

By the end of next year, banks will rely more and more on information gleaned directly from customers to predict loan defaults and collections. Lenders will use notes from customer interactions and conversations with collection center agents, as well as e-mail and other streams of unstructured communication, to significantly improve the prediction of the customer behavior. Banks currently rely on historical structured transaction data that's only producing marginal returns. But higher write-off rates and debt delinquencies will force financial institutions to deploy new methods. -- Gwen Spertell, CEO, Intelligent Results Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.

By improving the targeting of marketing messages, business-intelligence technology may save more than $200 billion dollars a year in wasted advertising and direct marketing. Data mining combined with marketing automation changes the fundamental economics of marketing and will probably increase the efficiency of all marketing expenditures by as much as 20% by 2007. -- Dave Morgan, CEO, Tacoda Systems Inc., New York

In the next three to five years, business intelligence will cease to exist as a stand-alone market, as Microsoft, database vendors and application vendors make analytics a simple extension of their offerings. Integration providers, using Web services and messaging standards, will make data movement simpler and provide "right-time" access to any data source. -- Bob Zurek, vice president of advanced technology, Ascential Software Corp., Westboro, Mass.

Today, consumers may be amused at marketers' clumsy attempts to personalize service, like being offered a new Lexus while shopping for a used Pinto. But consumers won't laugh at such amateur antics in two years or so. And neither will chief financial officers, who will refuse to pay for collecting and analyzing data that gets used unintelligently. -- Helen McMillan, vice president, Experian Database Solutions, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Business is war! Like in any war, survival depends on being able to act quickly in a constantly changing environment. Business intelligence will eventually operate as a business command-and control-center (BCCC). Similar to how a missile command center constantly performs tracking and analysis and triggers countermeasures, the BCCC will track variables, such as operational performance, market conditions and competitors' performance, in real-time. -- Sol Klinger, director, Sterling Management Solutions Inc., Princeton, N.J.

Unstructured customer feedback contains critical indicators for customer attrition, upsell opportunities and product enhancements. In 2003, companies that fail to utilize their customers' unstructured feedback will be left in the dust! -- Guy Jones, vice president and founder of Island Data Corp., Carlsbad, Calif.

By 2006, half of all data warehouses that exist today will be replaced by a more streamlined architecture that I will call "data shopping malls." They'll contain sets of data arranged by use for each business unit that will allow the business-unit managers to analyze data specific to their area of interest. The data shopping malls will be more accurate, more responsive and less susceptible to the statistical anomalies of large data sets in the data warehouse. -- Craig Branning, senior vice president, Tallan Inc., Glastonbury, Conn.

Knowledge workers have tended to analyze data in isolation because the software they use doesn't let them do anything else. But data analysis must move from solo to collaborative if we're ever going to eliminate the bottleneck of specialized business analysts. This means packaging analytical applications into portal interfaces that ordinary people can access online and then allowing them to share not just the static output, but [also] the actual dynamic analytical experience through online collaboration. We'll see this happen among early adopters later this year, and it will be mainstream by 2005. -- Andrew Coutts, CEO, Databeacon Inc., Ottawa

Within two to three years, companies will ditch the traditional model of making business adjustments on a quarterly basis. Instead, they'll use business intelligence and performance management tools to make real-time shifts in strategy to respond to changes in the marketplace. --Rob Ashe, president and chief operating officer, Cognos Inc., Burlington, Mass.

Vendors that promise business intelligence but capture only historical data from company databases will be tomorrow's memories -- extinct providers who simply couldn't deliver true real-time intelligence. Real business intelligence means analyzing not only documents, databases and e-mail, but also other sources of rich and constantly changing data, such as Web site content, PDF files, Internet-based discussions, call logs and survey responses. -- Mahendra B. Vora, chairman and CEO, Intelliseek Inc., Cincinnati

Within five years, terms such as business intelligence and data mining will have all but disappeared from the corporate lexicon. They'll be replaced by business actions automatically triggered by systems with "corporate foresight," based on predictive analytics. And instead of being used by a limited number of technical analysts, these technologies will be applied at all levels, from the CEO managing corporate risk to the human resources professional identifying attrition risk among the best employees. -- Colin Shearer, vice president of customer analytics, SPSS Inc., Chicago

Users will demand more integration between the numbers and the commentary. At some point, all business-intelligence applications will include content management or knowledge management tools as well. -- Brian Hartlen, senior vice president, Comshare Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich.

In about five years, we'll see a dramatic 40% increase in the number of end users who use business-intelligence tools. The monolithic data warehouse strategies will be replaced with technologies that build virtual data access points based on the end user's query needs. These points will dynamically collect data from a variety of sources including data mart, data warehouse, production systems and external sources and present a single personal data view. -- Frank Gelbart, CEO, Appfluent Technology Inc., Arlington, Va.

In early 2004, some bored geek starts an open-source OLAP [online analytical processing] initiative. Suddenly, Oracle doesn't think that Linux and its ilk are that cool anymore. -- Gerald Boyd, director of research, NCS Technologies Inc., Piscataway, N.J.

In a few years, competitive advantage will come from using business intelligence to understand customer behavior and preferences at a narrow segmentation level and even an individual level and then delivering customized, context-sensitive offers. But given the cost and difficulty of actually doing this, by 2010, at least 50% of the Fortune 500 will turn to outsourcing contractors that have the next-generation technology and database marketing expertise to do it. -- Jeff Zabin, vice president, Seurat Co., Boulder, Colo.

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