Business Intelligence Goes Mainstream At info360

The biggest event in content management and records management adds BI to the topic list.
This week I presented at the new BI track as part of info360 conference in Washington, DC. It's an interesting addition to this long-established conference, and further evidence of BI going mainstream.

Info360 draws ten thousand information management professionals and has historically focused on content, knowledge, and records management. There are, for example, specific SharePoint and Oracle Enterprise Content Management tracks. Another hot topic was managing social media content.

The new BI track had a host of expert speakers including Boris Evelson from Forrester on pervasive BI, Colin White on mobile, Mike Ferguson on cloud and Mark Madsen on social media. There were speakers from industry including representatives of the Office of Financial Stability. OFS was formed to manage TARP following the financial meltdown.

When I think of government, I don't think of agile or responsive (sorry, slow and bureaucratic comes to mind), yet, those were the biggest themes in the OFS presentation. As I've written in my book Successful Business Intelligence, the idea of IT partnering with the business is a critical success factor, and OFS demonstrated that well.

The exhibit hall was revealing in terms of who (from a BI perspective) was there and who was not. Microsoft had a huge presence with SharePoint. However, their booth once again reflected this vendor's disjointed BI story. SharePoint was demonstrated mostly as a content management solution, yet it is also Microsoft's starting point for BI consumers to share reports, dashboards, and PowerPivot spreadsheets. PowerPivot, however, was not installed on the demo machines. Reporting Services did not work. (Maybe someone didn't tell Microsoft there was a BI theme at this conference?). The FAST search and navigation looked pretty nice, though.

The BI Pavilion had a number of smaller vendor's exhibiting; traditional BI heavy weights were absent, which is not too surprising for a new venue. QlikTech was there, and LogiXML. I only occasionally come across LogiXML and was impressed by their dashboards and interactive reports. They say one of their differentiators is their straight-forward, server-based license, ideal when reports are deployed to thousands of users. Kudos to them for simple pricing and packaging, in contrast to the complicated approaches many other vendors take, as I describe here.

I'll end this post on a note about Washington, DC. It could have been, and should have been a great venue, with the cherry blossoms blooming and the view of the Capital building inspiring. It's a city I love and an area that was my home in high school and college. Yet from the get go, it reflected a brokenness. Homeless people abound and begged for money while I waited for a taxi (yes, I gave, but wondered why this doesn't happen in New York). I then got kicked out of the taxi at 11:30 at night when I politely asked the driver not to talk on his cell phone while driving (I normally ignore that, but had one too many bad highway experiences in the last year to take this for granted).

And then there was the alarming, megaphone at 7 am, "Wake up, get out of the hotel now!" Normally I'm up by then, but it was a long day and late night. There was no fire, no emergency, but rather, hotel workers protesting at the hotel next door, all morning and all day. They had been protesting for months, apparently.

Protests have their place, but when they disturb the tourists on which the workers' livelihood depends, it seemed rude and unproductive. The final annoying impression was the DC Convention Center, which lacked wireless throughout most of the building. Archaic isn't it?

I'm back in Washington, DC in a few weeks for TDWI's spring conference. Perhaps the above are all the reasons TDWI picked Arlington, just across the river from downtown DC as the actual venue. Washington DC seems better when viewed from a distance.

Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard , an independent analyst firm that advises companies on BI tool strategies and offers in-depth business intelligence product reviews.