'Consolidation' Isn't The Only Driver In Software - InformationWeek

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10/8/2007
05:22 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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'Consolidation' Isn't The Only Driver In Software

You hear words like "consolidation" and "mature" so often about business software, you'd think all anyone's doing is dividing up a stagnant pool of maintenance revenue among an ever-smaller group of software vendors. News around Business Objects and SAS today reflects something a lot more interesting: IT teams scrambling to provide clearer, faster insights from exploding volumes of data.

You hear words like "consolidation" and "mature" so often about business software, you'd think all anyone's doing is dividing up a stagnant pool of maintenance revenue among an ever-smaller group of software vendors. News around Business Objects and SAS today reflects something a lot more interesting: IT teams scrambling to provide clearer, faster insights from exploding volumes of data.There's no glory for CIOs in keeping transaction systems humming. But they can wring out competitive advantage by getting better information from those transactions, and that's the potential of SAP's acquisition of Business Objects, and SAS's road map toward embedded analytics in databases.

There's excellent in-depth analysis of SAP/Business Objects at Intelligent Enterprise. As for SAS, CTO Keith Collins sees three big changes in the use of data analysis, to explain the "why now?" of its push for embedded analytics.

    1. Data volume growth: This can make old approaches to data analysis unworkable. One company using SAS analytics for customer scoring used to need six months to recode the output for use in a production system, Collins says. The company rewrote the legacy application to call SAS as a Web service, so that process now takes a week.

    2. Technology change: Databases once focused on transaction processing are increasingly able to handle the "mixed workloads" that analytics requires, he says.

    3. Streamlined business processes: Companies are pursuing ways to do analysis more quickly -- even scoring data as it comes into a data warehouse -- but they're also changing processes to deal with that faster flow of information. They're "accelerating this analytics life cycle," he says.

One other interesting point Collins made: Data analytics are starting to have Sarbanes-Oxley implications. Companies are taking the governance of the analytics process -- documenting the flow of data -- more seriously, he says, because they're concluding their analytics can have a "material" effect on total revenue, thus falling under SarBox measures.

SAP-plus-Business Objects is part of this bigger picture, where analytics will increasingly be blended into processes and transactions to make information far more valuable and timely. Done right, that's got bottom-line value for a company that goes well beyond having fewer software vendors to deal with.

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