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The Good, Better, Best Among BI/Search Combos

Not all combinations of search and BI technology are created equal, but most do have one thing in common -- they're not ready yet. We've been pining for an interview with an end user with first-hand experience with the combination, but we couldn't find any... Most of the Google/BI integrations announced last year will deliver what IDC search expert Sue Feldman calls "Beginner BI."
Not all combinations of search and BI technology are created equal, but most do have one thing in common -- they're not ready yet. We've been pining for an interview with an end user with first-hand experience with the combination, but Business Objects, Cognos, IBI and others couldn't point us to anyone. I'm told such customers exist, but I'm guessing they're finding it's really hard to use search-style queries to uncover structured information that's on target.

Most of the Google/BI integrations announced last year will deliver what IDC search expert Sue Feldman calls "Beginner BI." "What they're doing is using search to pull specific information out of databases into the Google interface," she says. "That requires a certain amount of work for each query"By "work" she means coding, so, for example, you might be able to take your top internal queries and hardwire the search engine to deliver specific data and reports known to provide the right answers.

At the next level of sophistication, being pursued by both Business Objects and Cognos (in addition to their level-one efforts), a more ad-hoc approach is supported by searching table metadata, but it's an inherently "data-centric approach," says Feldman. "The major problem is that every time you use a BI tool, you have to prestructure the report that you want to get out of it," she says. "If you later want to do ad hoc questions you didn't anticipate, you're going to have to spend time creating a new cube or report with the desired parameters."

Feldman says she's impressed with the approach announced this week by FAST, which enables the search engine to index entire columns, rows and table titles, so it can support true ad hoc search. Endeca is another search vendor pursuing this avenue. Most encouraging, FAST can actually point to customers, such as Reuters and Clif Bar, that say it works.

Even if search interfaces manage to bring more users to the BI table, my concern is that imprecise user keyword search practices and long hit lists will only compound the "single-version-of-the-truth" problem. Those with experience with knowledge bases know only too well that customers can get completely overwhelmed by the volume of possible answers to a query, even when the question is presented by the help system and hardwired to all the right answers.Not all combinations of search and BI technology are created equal, but most do have one thing in common -- they're not ready yet. We've been pining for an interview with an end user with first-hand experience with the combination, but we couldn't find any... Most of the Google/BI integrations announced last year will deliver what IDC search expert Sue Feldman calls "Beginner BI."