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3/31/2008
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Gartner BI Summit 2008: The Next Generation of Innovation

Decision making as core competency, emerging technologies as BI enablers and changes in the BI market itself are core topics at this week's Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Chicago. Analyst Kurt Schlegel explains the trends and business drivers.

Kurt Schlegel Kurt Schlegel

You and analyst Bill Hostmann are kicking off this week's Gartner BI Summit with the keynote presentation "Business Intelligence: The Next Generation of Innovation." What's the big message?

We're going to focus on three clear areas of innovation. The first — and I'd say this comes closest to being the essence of the conference overall — is about creating a BI strategy that is focused on making decision making a core competency as opposed the just reporting measures. Today we have very IT-centric BI teams that view their job as "let's get the data right and let's report to the right users at the right time." That's obviously essential and everybody has to be very good at that, but we view that as table stakes. Everyone has to be good at that. The folks that take it up a notch create a BI strategy that's less IT-centric, more business-centric and more focused on decision making itself.

The second innovation is about emerging technologies and addressing the problem that BI is too hard. All sorts of anecdotal evidence suggests that there's 15 percent to 20 percent penetration among users and that's about it. We're reaching the people who are comfortable with Excel and grids, but we could be giving a lot more people the power to report on and analyze information and make better decisions. One way to do that is with some of the emerging technologies, particularly search and visualization, which have been proven to have mainstream appeal.

The third and final innovation is about the BI market itself. It's a bit complicated, but it's focused on integration and the fact that BI has always been overtly disconnected from business processes and applications. Given the market consolidation and the stack centricity of what a lot of these vendors are doing, there's going to be a much greater focus on integrating BI with an application and process stack. I think that's going to be very helpful, but there are other aspects to this area of innovation. I think software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing are going to give rise to an array of different types of BI offerings. That's going to change the market from what it looks like today.

Let's take them one-by-one. How do you make decision making a core competency?

The most immediate thing you can do is create a much more business-centric BI competency center (BICC). Most BICCs today are very IT-centric, driven by reporting-centric people, data-modeling-centric people, data-integration-centric people who view the business as their customer. One of the clearest messages I want to make is that the companies that have demonstrably moved the needle on performance don't look like that. There's not this sort of vendor-customer relationship; it's much more of a team effort. The business people and IT people share one common initiative. It still involves people with business skills and people with IT skills, but they are all on the same team and jointly responsible for delivering on BI initiatives.

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