Why BI is in a Funk - InformationWeek

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Commentary
1/30/2009
11:42 AM
Curt Monash
Curt Monash
Commentary
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Why BI is in a Funk

I wrote recently that BI is in a "funk." Let me now offer a few ideas as to why that is so: 1. At its heart, BI is an application development technology. 2. Very few enterprises want to or can change the way they do business. 3. Large BI vendors aren't sure what business they're in. 4. The communication collaboration opportunity is being botched.

I wrote recently that BI is in a "funk." Let me now offer a few ideas as to why that is so.

1. At its heart, BI is an application development technology, and making money from innovating in development is hard. To quote myself:

Products are obsolete before they [are] mature. Products commonly do only part of what is necessary. Generally, a new tool will be developed to help with a new need... But these tools will often be weak at what came before... By the time the shiny new tools mature to do a good job at the older requirements, some other... shift comes along, with yet newer and shinier tools to handle the latest twists.

2. Very few enterprises want to or can change the way they do business to fully embrace analytic technologies. If you're old enough to recall those times, think back to the great fuss about adopting manufacturing/inventory control applications in the 1970s and 1980s. The number of "Class A" MRP users was in the low dozens for a very long time. And changing how your line workers do business is a much smaller challenge than enforcing procedural discipline on your decision-makers.

As I've noted, analytic business processes - or the areas of overlap between analytics and business process - are poorly understood. Continuous planning/budgeting? The surface has only been scratched. A numerate, "one-truth" enterprise culture? Hah. When we identify an enterprise that truly has a pervasive, numbers-oriented culture, it usually is one that winds up pathologically managing to a purely short-term set of goals. Indeed, I have considerable doubt as to whether the extreme form of the "analytic enterprise" is even desirable, let alone achievable.

3. Large BI vendors aren't sure what business they're in. Classical BI marketing is floundering. BI vendors don't know whether they're in the business of quick/easy information access, analytic apps, or better-enterprise-system-software.

This is the flip side of Point #1.

4. The communication collaboration opportunity is being botched. Communication/collaboration is as big a benefit of reporting as the numbers themselves are. I learned this in the 1980s, and it has never changed. But BI vendors have whiffed repeatedly at enhancing this benefit.I wrote recently that BI is in a "funk." Let me now offer a few ideas as to why that is so: 1. At its heart, BI is an application development technology. 2. Very few enterprises want to or can change the way they do business. 3. Large BI vendors aren't sure what business they're in. 4. The communication collaboration opportunity is being botched.

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