"The bottleneck in the real-time enterprise is almost always human," Teradata's Brobst says. One way around the human factor is to use rules engines to automate responses to real-time business intelligence. A rules engine, for example, can decide how to handle a credit-card transaction that a real-time business-intelligence system has flagged as potentially fraudulent.
Implementing a real-time business-intelligence system isn't easy. Depending on the application, it can involve a broad range of software: business-activity-monitoring tools, business-intelligence software from companies such as Cognos and Business Objects, middleware such as enterprise-application-integration and enterprise-information integration software from IBM and BEA Systems, business-process-management applications from Pegasystems and Microsoft, and data-management tools from Oracle and SAP.
Many vendors are adapting existing products for real-time business intelligence. Ascential Software, Business Objects, and Informatica, for example, have all added real-time capabilities to the data extraction, transformation, and loading tools they sell for moving data into data warehouses.
However, real-time business-intelligence tools that vendors offer are more often for information delivery and alerting rather than real analysis. Analytical-software vendor Spotfire Inc. is working on a version of its DecisionSite analytical software, due out in about six months, which will provide users with real-time analytical tools via a portal, says president Rock Steven Gnatovich.
Another consideration is that real-time business intelligence requires tight integration between operational and analytical software, which is never an easy task. Next year, SAP will try to lessen that burden by offering a new release of its Business Information Warehouse software that can take in real-time data feeds through its SAP XI messaging software.
Some vendors, such as Teradata, are expanding their use of Web services to make it easier to connect data-warehouse systems with live data feeds from operational systems. Celequest, for example, is adding Web services to link its software to enterprise-resource-planning and business-process tools.
To help resolve the human-bottleneck issue, Business Objects is developing collaborative tools, which are due out in three to six months, that will help people cooperatively act on the results of real-time data analysis, says CEO Bernard Liautaud.
Iteration CEO Ken Gardner predicts that as the pace of business accelerates, so will all business- intelligence tools. Says Gardner: "Ten years from now, I believe every business-intelligence vendor will have converted to a real-time architecture. Or they will be out of business."