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2/1/2007
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Business Intelligence 2.0: Simpler, More Accessible, Inevitable

Say goodbye to complicated interfaces, disconnected analytics and shelfware. An emerging era for BI will bring simplicity, broad access and better ties between analysis and action.

BI 2.0: What to Expect

The new era of BI, which is already here, goes far beyond data and reporting. BI is becoming proactive, real-time, operational, integrated with business processes, and extending beyond the boundaries of the organization. To become pervasive and grow out of its reporting niche, BI has to provide simple, personal analytical tools on an as-needed basis with a minimal footprint and cost. Rather than relying solely on a rigid metaphor like data warehousing, BI needs the ability to access data anywhere it can be found and to performing integration on the fly, if necessary. Locating the right information to solve problems must be a semantic process, not requiring knowledge of data structures or canonical forms. Directed search, based on the meanings of and relationships among objects, allows practically any person or service to find what is needed without assistance, whether it is structured information like relational databases, message queues, logs, web services or even unstructured content.

The Web was not just a brilliant idea, it was and is a world-changing phenomenon. Yet even in light of this success, it is quickly moving to an entirely new plane of existence, one that is more collaborative, intelligent, rich, semantically aware and simple. Web 2.0 is about closing the loop, from being a collection of web pages to a being the single platform for just about everything. The physical resources are in place and attractively priced, the open standards are evolving without fracturing the confederacy of technology players, large and small. The missing piece is the semantic technology, but even that is progressing nicely as semantics pure plays are gobbled up by more well-heeled operations like IBM, Google and webMethods.

BI needs a 2.0 initiative too. BI 2.0 won't replace BI, it will extend it. Current BI capabilities are well-suited to many tasks, such as individualized dashboards of overnight data or providing a rich environment for interactive exploring of data, by people and by algorithms. But current BI practices have always been weak dealing with the unexpected and the urgent because of their "data first" orientation. Spreadsheets shine here, but they lack too many architectural prerequisites to be useful, such as collaboration, security, abstraction and versioning, among others. If spreadsheet tools develop these characteristics, and they are heading in that direction, they will not usurp BI, they will become BI.

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