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Intelligence or Info Overload?

Today's breakneck business climate has prompted some companies to adopt real-time business-intelligence systems. But how much is too much?
The question remains whether many companies are equipped to take advantage of real-time business intelligence. "Even if you have these tools, it still comes down to what you can do with the information," says Burzinski. Companies must have the organization and procedures in place to act on real-time alerts and data analysis.

"The bottleneck in the real-time enterprise is almost always human," Teradata's Brobst says. One way around the human factor is to use rules engines to automate responses to real-time business intelligence. A rules engine, for example, can decide how to handle a credit-card transaction that a real-time business-intelligence system has flagged as potentially fraudulent.

Implementing a real-time business-intelligence system isn't easy. Depending on the application, it can involve a broad range of software: business-activity-monitoring tools, business-intelligence software from companies such as Cognos and Business Objects, middleware such as enterprise-application-integration and enterprise-information integration software from IBM and BEA Systems, business-process-management applications from Pegasystems and Microsoft, and data-management tools from Oracle and SAP.

Many vendors are adapting existing products for real-time business intelligence. Ascential Software, Business Objects, and Informatica, for example, have all added real-time capabilities to the data extraction, transformation, and loading tools they sell for moving data into data warehouses.

However, real-time business-intelligence tools that vendors offer are more often for information delivery and alerting rather than real analysis. Analytical-software vendor Spotfire Inc. is working on a version of its DecisionSite analytical software, due out in about six months, which will provide users with real-time analytical tools via a portal, says president Rock Steven Gnatovich.

Another consideration is that real-time business intelligence requires tight integration between operational and analytical software, which is never an easy task. Next year, SAP will try to lessen that burden by offering a new release of its Business Information Warehouse software that can take in real-time data feeds through its SAP XI messaging software.

Some vendors, such as Teradata, are expanding their use of Web services to make it easier to connect data-warehouse systems with live data feeds from operational systems. Celequest, for example, is adding Web services to link its software to enterprise-resource-planning and business-process tools.

To help resolve the human-bottleneck issue, Business Objects is developing collaborative tools, which are due out in three to six months, that will help people cooperatively act on the results of real-time data analysis, says CEO Bernard Liautaud.

Iteration CEO Ken Gardner predicts that as the pace of business accelerates, so will all business- intelligence tools. Says Gardner: "Ten years from now, I believe every business-intelligence vendor will have converted to a real-time architecture. Or they will be out of business."

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing