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Today's Budget, Tomorrow's Plan

Better access to information is a leading theme in readers' 2006 IT budgets, with document management, portals, dashboards and enterprise reporting all comanding more investment. Mobile and wireless solutions and service oriented architecture top future technology adoption plans, but here's why security trumps all other trends behind the spend.

Give 'em a GUI

In the performance management and BI arena, our "performance scorecards and dashboards" and "enterprise reporting" categories address access and analysis imperatives, but we think the former is what's driving most of the interest.

Scorecards and dashboards should be a sign of deeper performance management initiatives aimed at improving planning and developing clearer strategic goals. To manage toward those goals, top financial and business executives need more detailed and timely information. Scorecards help aggregate and display that information, and dashboards deliver it to the key executives who need to react when business conditions change.

The scorecard was invented for the purpose of measuring and comparing performance against strategic and operational goals, and dashboards were first "executive" dashboards designed to display up-to-the-minute performance. The danger with these terms is that they're fast becoming ubiquitous. So many products now feature "scorecards" and "dashboards," you have to wonder if this phenomenon is really about performance management.

We put the word "performance" up front with a specific market in mind, so we hope the 43 percent of respondents who said they're spending more on scorecards and dashboards know what they're getting. Cross your fingers that the scorecards are grading and the dashboards are dialing into carefully selected variables tied to strategic performance objectives.

Nearly 42 percent the readers we polled said they'll spend more on enterprise reporting, the most visible example of the trend toward "operational BI." Rather than hoarding intelligence at the top, organizations know they must empower employees with information. Enterprise reporting tools are giving a broader community of users self-service access and more control over when and how they receive their reports.

Enterprise reporting figured prominently in nearly all the many BI suite upgrades in 2005, with examples including SAS's Web Report Studio, Hyperion's SQR (picked up in the Brio acquisition), and MicroStrategy's Report Services 8. Enterprise reporting is for everyone, but as the casual user's gateway to BI it must be accessible and easy to use. Thus, Web-based delivery and simple GUIs are musts. For vendors, the trick is hiding enough sophistication and control behind the scenes to please the analysts who drill down and design their own reports.

Whether it's because users are clamoring for information on demand or because BI gurus are tired of responding to special requests, our readers are investing more in enterprise reporting.

What's Next?

Other aspects of your 2006 budget and technology adoption plans seemed surprising at first, although less so upon closer examination. For example, for what many consider a "mature" category there was surprising interest in DBMSs, but then the footprint of the DBMS has been steadily expanding. IBM, Microsoft and Oracle have been blending in content management (as described earlier), BI and even data integration into the DBMS, which may be helping drive upgrades. Certainly Microsoft's recent and long-anticipated SQL Server 2005 release has many anticipating new licenses in 2006.

Looking at your interest in leading-edge technologies (see "Listening Post" at right), we discussed security and privacy, but more than half of the respondents also said they had either deployed or were testing, planning to deploy or closely tracking mobile and wireless solutions. It's a topic that network infrastructure publications have been all over, and with all the alerts tied to key performance metrics, processes and all forms of business activity monitoring, it makes sense that our readers are interested, too. Why go to the trouble and expense of getting to actionable, real-time information if you can only expose it to users at desktops during business hours? Without anytime, anywhere connectivity, all the talk about business responsiveness and agility rings hollow.

Less surprising was the high interest in service-oriented architecture and Web services (and the promise of faster, lower-cost, flexible and responsive IT), data visualization (for deeper, yet clearer analysis and understanding), 64-bit computing (for choke-free performance as the number and complexity of queries mounts), and Radio Frequency Identification and streaming data processing. The last two will go hand in hand, although streaming processing is already used for rapid-fire financial transactions and security incident detection.

How We'll Change

Thanks to the more than 1,131 readers who participated in our survey. We learned a lot and have many more statistics we plan to share. More importantly, we'll respond to your feedback by modifying and adding to our editorial calendar. We've already been in touch with our colleagues at Secure Enterprise to explore ways we could investigate encryption and other data protection technologies and trends.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Carlo Massimo, Contributing Writer
Salvatore Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing