Software // Information Management
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5/2/2007
03:22 PM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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Should BI & Performance Management Be a Single Platform - Part II

Whenever I disagree with someone smart, I automatically assume I must be wrong and seek to understand why. So it really bothered me that Doug Henschen was so certain that customers are driving demand for BI/PM convergence in this blog. It also doesn't sit too well with me that the vendors are clearly pursuing this strategy, while I'm saying I'm only seeing a handful of customers buying into it.

Whenever I disagree with someone smart, I automatically assume I must be wrong and seek to understand why. So it really bothered me that Doug Henschen was so certain that customers are driving demand for BI/PM convergence in this blog. It also doesn't sit too well with me that the vendors are clearly pursuing this strategy, while I'm saying I'm only seeing a handful of customers buying into it.

Let me clarify though:

A BI solution that delivers measurable business benefit and thus improves business performance is the goal for most BI deployments. I strongly disagree with Applix's CEO Plummer's comment "BI has always offered a historical perspective, but the insight hasn't been actionable." As one customer recently explained to me, "we saw an immediate lift in sales the week we deployed our BI solution." Why? Because the BI team went to great lengths to understand the business drivers and to deliver information that allowed all front-line workers to affect those drivers. Note: Applix is not the only vendor to try to pidgeon-hole BI as backward-looking and inactionable.Improving performance with better access to information has always been a theme to BI. (This is not the type of "convergence" I'm disagreeing with.)

Where I most take issue is with claims that customers are demanding that BI and Performance Management tools (budgeting, planning, and balanced scorecards) come from the same vendor. My customer base doesn't show this, this site's reader poll didn't show it, nor do preliminary successful BI survey results indicate it.

Thinking my view must be skewed, I asked Nigel Pendse (who publishes the extensive OLAP survey) if he had any better data on this convergence.

Nigel's response (edited):

"I've always believed that the BI/PM distinction was artificial, but ... I fully agree that buyers don't see any compelling reason to buy their PM and BI products from the same vendors. This is again a vendor-driven idea, with little or no supporting evidence from the marketplace. So, yes, I entirely agree that CFOs and CIOs have different agendas and vendor allegiances… I'm very much in the best-of-breed camp, and The OLAP Surveys also support the value of this approach."

My bottom line on this convergence topic:

• Part of the key to success with either BI and PM technologies is to be thinking about how they improve the performance, operations, and decision-making processes of the business. • Even when you buy the same BI and PM tools from the same vendor, don't expect them to be integrated under the covers. (You can check out some BIScorecard scores and evals for who is furthest along in integration). For most vendors, integration is a work in progress. • Whether or not you treat BI and PM as one initiative within your company depends a lot on the power of and relationships between the CFO/Finance group and the CIO/IT group. • While I believe vendors may be driving this convergence (and not necessarily customers), that doesn't mean it's not ultimately good for customers, as vendors are trying to stay ahead of the demand curve. After all, business users never explicitly asked for things like Blackberries!

Sincerely,

Cindi Howson Founder, BIScorecard product evaluations

P.S. As another data point in just how much convergence is or is not happening: just look at the continued success of companies that have decided to focus on just one market segment such as MicrosStrategy and IBI (focusing mainly on core BI) and OutlookSoft (focusing on Performance Management).Whenever I disagree with someone smart, I automatically assume I must be wrong and seek to understand why. So it really bothered me that Doug Henschen was so certain that customers are driving demand for BI/PM convergence in this blog. It also doesn't sit too well with me that the vendors are clearly pursuing this strategy, while I'm saying I'm only seeing a handful of customers buying into it.

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