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9/7/2004
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After the Dust Settles

How does the BI marketplace look now that the merger and acquisition dust has settled?

Can you imagine your organization without business intelligence (BI)? As amazing as it may seem, BI has grown to become a strategic component of your IT portfolio — despite only just beginning to realize its potential. Over the last year, BI's growing pains have begun to slow as organizations begin to understand how the technology can make a difference throughout the enterprise. And as both vendors and customers begin to apply the lessons learned from early BI installations, new opportunities for growth are emerging.

Period of Reassessment

The BI marketplace, after the turmoil of mergers and acquisitions during 2003, has begun to settle down into a period of assessment and a return to basics: Both large and small vendors are creating new corporate and product roadmaps that will better reflect their evolution to strategic enterprise software companies. While some customers may delay new software purchases, waiting to see where the new directions will lead, the weekly "updates" from BI vendors have only been a minor distraction for most companies, which are busy reassessing their own information architectures and BI strategies to better meet the needs of their businesses.

One of the findings of these reexaminations is the need to integrate the new information technology platforms that resulted from the ideas of the '90s with both new and existing architectures. One emerging solution is enterprise information integration (EII), which provides on-demand access to multiple data sources as part of your BI architecture and application server.

Certive and Composite Software provide EII independent of any BI vendor and have now proven their platforms across vertical industries. BI and reporting vendors are also major players in this arena: Actuate has adapted the EII technology from its Nimble acquisition into an information object-based metadata layer for version 8 of its enterprise-reporting platform. Siebel Systems designed its Siebel Analytics with EII in mind from the beginning, and this product has quietly grown from handfuls of customers two years ago to one of Siebel's fastest-growing, and probably largest, product lines in 2004. The challenge for Siebel will be to step outside its own CRM environments and into the mainstream BI market.

Intelligent and proactive information architectures use event- and process-based approaches to measure and monitor operational processes. Tibco Software is primed to capitalize: Its acquisitions of Staffware and Praja have resulted in new products, such as BusinessFactor, which can take advantage of any information bus architecture — IBM's, WebMethods', or its own. Tibco is positioning itself to deliver a new class of BI-like products that not only optimizes individuals' time and the information they receive but also provides the context for them to take action.

Room to Grow

Just as this past year has offered new answers, it has also revealed new questions as the ramifications of past decisions and innovations become clearer.

Product roadmaps. One of the results of the barrage of mergers and acquisitions in 2003 is the realization of just how dramatically they can change a vendor's BI roadmap and direction — and the consequences to its customers. After acquiring Crystal Decisions, Business Objects unveiled a two-year plan for integrating the combined BI and reporting products. Obviously, a longer-term combined product will take even more time to finish, mature, and validate. Hyperion also is staring at many years to fully integrate its Brio acquisition from an administrative and server technology and capability perspective. Only time will tell whether this adjustment period will prove only a minor speed bump for the vendors and their customers and result in the promised strategic BI platforms and suites.

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