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3/12/2006
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Enterprise Content Management's BI Flavors

A large amount of overlapping functionality between business intelligence and enterprise content management tools indicates that BI will become an integral part of the ECM framework in coming years, our expert argues.

ECM systems' functionality has become very broad in the past three to five years. The systems are attacking the problems of managing unstructured and semi-structured data that's locked in desktop application silos, and making that data available in portal and dashboard contexts.

Such functions sound an awful lot like what BI is doing with scorecarding and performance measures. The versioning and version control parts of library services, above, could come in handy in the development of OLAP cubes, statistical analysis and custom reports. And ECM workflow functionality is strikingly similar to business activity monitoring and business process management.

BI doesn't require all of ECM's user interface services -- although borrowing some of its workgroup functionality could prove useful. BI has adopted and even shaped some ECM practices; but as seen below, BI is in the process of adopting many ECM methods.

BI Shapes The ECM Framework

The writing is on the wall -- much of the practice of BI will adopt substantial parts of the ECM framework. Some BI systems will become third-party content-creation interfaces working under an ECM framework. Others will make use of ECM services. At the same time, BI will help to shape workflow, metadata, and content-delivery services profoundly. The question of who arrives first at this larger set of services -- whether it be an ECM vendor like Documentum, an infrastructure vendor like BEA, or a BI player like Cognos -- is up in the air. But certainly, market forces are pushing vendors in this direction.

1) The duplication of services and near identical processing in some aspects of both BI and ECM are factors holding up not just initial costs of many BI packages (users who buy two or more BI or ECM packages are paying for some near-duplicate services) but also keeping ongoing operational costs high. Expertise has to be developed and maintained over so many similar but different systems and services.

2) With ETL, XML, Java/J2EE and Web Services, the advantages of consolidating key ECM functions within tools could prove very compelling.

3) Major vendors including BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS and others are moving toward a coordinated framework among their BI, ERP, ECM and other enterprise application offerings.

Expect BI to become an integral part of a consolidated BI+ECM framework. And expect this convergence to happen within the next two to five years. Also do not be surprised if business activity monitoring, BPM, EAI and EII tools also start to draw on common routines and services and integrate with the BI+ECM cluster for things like metadata and interface system services.

Now Microsoft should leap on these notions, and say that's what it's been planning all along with Windows Services. IBM is likely to ditto that notion with its WebSphere Information Integration, as might Oracle with its Fusion middleware, and BEA with its Liquid Services. Look for integration, infrastructure and delivery of reliable and secure services to be the battleground for IT leadership in the next decade. Because BI leads the innovation and ROI parade, it will powerfully shape the emerging architectures.

Jacques Surveyer is an IT observer and speculates on these and broader ideas at his site Bookraft.com.

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