Special Report: BI Megatrends 2008 - InformationWeek
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Special Report: BI Megatrends 2008

Complacency Be Gone! Enterprises seeking a competitive edge are looking toward competency centers, MDM, real-time deployments, data virtualization, workload management and operational intelligence. We help you answer six questions that will lead to innovative new BI strategies.

Consolidation Megatrend: Delayed Impact

BI Megatrends 2008
Companies acquire other companies for a number of reasons, many of which are not prominently mentioned at the smiles-all-around press conferences heralding new synergies and competitive edges. Big investors play a role, with one side wanting to see quick revenue and market share growth and the other a sale at peak valuation. Of course, what matters going forward is how well the cultures of these larger software providers meld together to meet new strategic, technology and market objectives. This process rarely happens overnight; thus, for BI customers and the industry as a whole, the true significance of these acquisitions could take months if not years to come clear. In 2008, everyone will be watching and most likely waiting to know more before making any moves: Will the BI software offered by these larger vendors meet customers’ requirements more effectively – or less?

A longstanding part of BI software’s value proposition has been its independence from the applications and databases underneath. Living outside these systems, BI can focus on meeting users’ data access, analysis and reporting needs; and being free of any one system, BI can work with multiple and heterogeneous data sources. Of course, making these promises a reality has typically required hard work by both vendors and IT staff.

What will happen now? The hope is that some of the difficult plumbing will begin to ease – or at least become more of the vendor’s responsibility. Of course, the direction that improvements in data integration and access take will likely depend on the vendor combination.

All three of the major acquired BI vendors have gone to great lengths to point out that their products will work as well as ever with what are now competitors’ applications and information management platforms. In other words, it should be just like old times: in SAP shops, Cognos software will remain very competitive with SAP’s Business Objects portfolio and Oracle's Hyperion offerings; these latter two will continue to have important partnerships with IBM; and Oracle will still be a big factor even in predominantly IBM and SAP installations. Time can only tell how soon competitive juices overwhelm the chivalrous atmosphere. And, needless to say, if the big vendors’ attentions turn too far inward toward sorting out sales territories and the like, it will create openings for independents, including Microsoft, to make their case.

Many CIOs will be pleased to have “fewer throats to choke” and bring consolidation to their own organizations, possibly witling their own BI portfolios down to a chosen big vendor. Much will depend on how the organization views BI: as information management infrastructure, as part of applications or, in its traditionally delineated role, above it all. Importantly, however, organizations have to guard against letting consolidation lead to neglect in BI innovation and complacency in how they use information for greater human and process efficiency and effectiveness.

Accurate, timely and comprehensive data access, analysis and reporting are urgent priorities for businesses seeking to establish informed decision-making at all levels. Innovative companies want to run operations and strategic activities such as pricing and demand management using analytic applications, not just spreadsheets and hunches. The most sophisticated and demanding of these are pushing the BI and data warehousing envelope. New technology approaches and architectures are required.

With the consolidation megatrend in the background, let’s take a look at six questions organizations must answer in shaping future BI implementations. Perhaps it is the former journalist in me, but I chose to break them out as the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of BI.

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