Next-Era BI: Proactive, Pervasive, Performance-Oriented - InformationWeek

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Next-Era BI: Proactive, Pervasive, Performance-Oriented

How do you differentiate your business when same-old BI and same-old automation are commodities? Cognos, SAP-Business Objects and independent vendors present visions and real-world examples of blended solutions.

From Automation to Business Optimization

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Doug Merritt, SAP
Ashe's vision jibes remarkably well with that offered by SAP at a press event last week. "Business performance optimization" was the buzzword of the day (see "SAP Completes Business Objects Buy, Details 'Business Optimization' Vision", and the underlying technologies discussed were somewhat different than those highlighted by Ashe.

Differentiation is continuing to "migrate away from repetitive, efficiency-oriented applications... such as payroll, general ledger and order entry," acknowledged Doug Merritt, an SAP corporate officer who is joining Business Objects to lead the development of "business optimization applications." SAP's two-year-old "business transformation orientation" holds that differentiation is moving to "more ad hoc types of processes that involve networks or teams or collaborations of organizations, divisions across boundaries," said Merritt. "For us, business performance optimization is marrying the benefits of business intelligence... with new capabilities around teaming, collaboration and business process management (BPM)."

Independent BPM vendors have been blending BI, rules and process automation for years, but SAP CEO Henning Kagermann says the question is "what will the next generation bring? In our case, it's composite business processes with built-in business rules that you can change on the fly."

As part of its NetWeaver offerings, SAP also promises a model-driven environment that will move customers from conventional (meaning, time-consuming and expensive) development led by IT to agile, self-service composition led by business analysts. But for now, that's more vision than reality. SAP's process management suite is currently a demo product that isn't due out until the end of the year. In contrast, Oracle and IBM both have months-old BPM suites, but they are well behind the years-old independent leaders in Gartner's most recent (December 2007) BPMS Magic Quadrant (see related "Q&A: Gartner's Janelle Hill on the Future of BPM, SOA and Enterprise Apps." )

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