Predicting BI Highlights for 2010

I hope I'm better at predicting BI events than football playoff outcomes. Here are my thoughts on where the BI excitement and let downs will be.
Did you catch the Packers vs. Cardinals game? Well, I was at a swim meet, so I didn't quite watch it, but I got real-time texts from my husband and son (as well as updates from fellow Green Bay fans, also dressed appropriately in green at the meet).

The seeming assuredness of the Packer's loss at the beginning, followed by their incredible comeback, and the volatile overtime, made me think of the competitiveness of the BI landscape and the difficulty in predicting what 2010 will really bring.

I hope I'm better at predicting BI events than football outcomes. Here are my thoughts on where the excitement and let downs will be.In-memory will be a key theme this year as Microsoft will ship Gemini, SAP opens up BW Accelerator, IBM Cognos increasingly leverages TM1, and MicroStrategy 9 OLAP Services gains traction. In-memory approaches are not only key to BI platforms but also to any analysis that involves both speed and analytic complexity (Spotfire, SAS JMP, QlikView). The winners in this are the customers; the losers will be the vendors who have no strategy in this space or where in-memory is their only differentiator.

Cloud computing and SaaS will become less niche as both BI heavy weights and vertically-focused vendors recognize that the infrastructure side of BI offers little competitive advantage; instead, it's the time-to-value and agility. IT owners who don't want to give up any control are in for a bruising.

SMBs will embrace BI but, faced with a myriad of good BI tool choices, these customers will choose products from vendors who offer better service, clarity of value, a partnership mentality, and at the least cost.

The enterprise vs. departmental BI debate will continue but will be tempered with the reality of "best" and "right" doesn't matter if you get outsourced, laid off, or go bankrupt. Those burned by over spending on software will look for IT to offer some enterprise restraint. Those who suffered from the analysis paralysis of over standardizing, over engineering, and over consensus building will look enviously at the more nimble departments to deliver better solutions, faster. The wiser of the industry will find an ideal balance of having an enterprise focus on those items that bring economies of scale and synergies, while departmentalizing those aspects in which differentiation and time to value matter more.

Got dashboards? This category of tools only keeps getting better. Dashboards will become as commonplace as reporting and ad hoc query capabilities; but in 2010, they will be more animated, better integrated, packing more effective insights, on whatever device users prefer (including the iPhone and Droid).

Good data, bad decisions remain BI's biggest problem. I'd like to be optimistic and think that we will rid the BI industry of all that ails it, but the world economy, corruption in politics, the epidemic of overweight people while others starve -- you name it -- tell me that human nature will continue to sabotage even the best of BI deployments. As Neil Raden blogged this week, even when presented with good data, people make mistakes in decision-making (see this timeless HBR article for some of the classics).

So as Tom Davenport suggests, it will be the companies with both the smart people, and those who truly work in an aligned way that make the best of BI. This "prediction" shouldn't be a downer; instead, it should be just another voice reminding you that the culture has to be right for BI to really have a positive impact.

Social networking and sentiment analysis should be on everyone's radar. Now that it seems every company has a Facebook presence (maybe for marketing, maybe for customer support), the need for sentiment analysis grows. So all those tweets, blogs, and social network updates only add to the data explosion and sense of information overload.

For many individuals, I know that 2009 was a tumultuous year. Jobs came and went -- if not yours, then your spouse's, your colleagues', your friends'. Change can leave us on edge, waiting for the next calamity. But still, if you are in BI, it means you are in a flourishing industry. I couldn't think of a more exciting field to work in.

Happy New Year! Cindi Howson, BI ScorecardI hope I'm better at predicting BI events than football playoff outcomes. Here are my thoughts on where the BI excitement and let downs will be.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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