Software // Information Management
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1/31/2007
10:49 AM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Roadkill at the Corner of Search and BI

A client who regularly generates large numbers of reports that "sit within a data warehouse system, run off Business Objects/Cognos against one source or another." The client envisions "something like the Amazon site that allows search, and when someone selects a report, it lists other reports, noting 'people who looked at this report also looked at... '"

The intersection of search and business intelligence has gained lots of attention in recent months. But are companies actually implementing search-BI solutions? Or is search-BI mostly talk, as yet unworthy of serious consideration by organizations with real-world problems to solve?

E-mail from a friend seeking advice suggested these questions.

Christine works for a prominent, expensive BI-DW consultancy. She's helping a client with information access problems. Her client regularly generates large numbers of reports that "sit within a data warehouse system, run off Business Objects/Cognos against one source or another, or more commonly are created manually by copying/pasting or rekeying data into a spreadsheet/Word doc/Powerpoint/Web site." The client envisions "something like the Amazon site that allows search, and when someone selects a report it lists other reports, noting 'people who looked at this report also looked at... and a way for users to rate the report, etc.'"

Yes, even folks who rekey data into spreadsheets are allowed to dream.And the solution the client aspires to? It's a portal with a report/BI catalog. Both tedious and impractical. Put aside the impossibility of finding all the spreadsheets and documents squirreled away on staff desktops. How in the world would you get people to rate them?

Analytics-savvy search -- with automated ranking capabilities -- is supposed to cut through catalog clutter. I suggested to Christine that she check out an IE column I wrote last year on the subject and follow-up with her client's BI vendors. (I spared her the opinion that the data copy-pasters should be assigned to Steve Jobs' accounting staff until they reform.) I thought I'd do a bit of that follow-up myself, particularly after seeing enterprise-search vendor FAST's recent claim that, in effect, they're going to put the BI traditionalists out of business.

Both Paul Hulford, Product Marketing Manager at Cognos, and James Thomas from Business Objects told me that customers are just now starting to explore search-enhanced BI. James says that most customer uptake is in smaller deployments and proof-of-concept pilots. The obstacle is some combination of lack of solution awareness (like my friend's), dim perception of benefits, and that folks handling enterprise search in-house aren't mixing with the BI people. Both companies are working hard to boost capabilities awareness. Business Objects, for one, is enhancing product integration with leading portals, preparing content-search facilities for release, and designing the more search-centric experience they think their users seek.

As for FAST, the company seems not to understand what numbers-driven BI is all about. But save that for another time.

My friend Christine liked my suggestions. Maybe her client can be one of the breakthrough showcases that prove that search-BI is for real, not just positioning in a Google-obsessed computing world.

Technorati ProfileA client who regularly generates large numbers of reports that "sit within a data warehouse system, run off Business Objects/Cognos against one source or another." The client envisions "something like the Amazon site that allows search, and when someone selects a report, it lists other reports, noting 'people who looked at this report also looked at... '"

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