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The intelligent approach

01 Aug 2010

Over the past year, the focus in BI has been on one thing – consolidation. That being said, traditional BI vendors are now settling in to integration with their new owners, and the demand for BI applications is at an all-time high.The downturn in the economy has meant organisations have had to place more focus on making better decisions and reducing costs, and what better way to do so than using BI initiatives? Gartner’s 2009 survey of CIOs worldwide revealed that, for the fourth year in a row, BI applications were still the highest technology priority, so it pays to keep an eye on current trends. Being ‘in the know’ will help you create strong business relationships with both CIOs and the business intelligence vendors of your choosing. Gartner’s Hype cycle for business intelligence and performance management, 2009, gives us a detailed look at the trends we can expect to see now and up to 10 years in the future.Here to stayTwo trends that have made a large impact on the market, and will continue to do so, are BI platforms and data-mining workbenches. BI platforms can be divided in to three categories: analysis, information delivery and platform integration, all of which enable enterprises to build business intelligence applications. Data-mining workbenches provide a selection of analytic functions and mining processes from which analysts can model nearly any kind of data for exploratory insights. Datamining workbenches was also aid in the data preparation steps that need to be performed prior to analytic modelling, post model-building scoring, and the deployment phase of the data-mining process. These technologies are classified as “mature mainstream” in Gartner’s Hype cycle, with market penetration for both being more than 50% of the target audience. So while they are accepted technologies, there are still abundant opportunities for resellers to tap into the other half of the market.Top prioritiesGartner’s Hype cycle also provides us with the ‘priority matrix’ (pictured opposite), which gives you an idea of which BI technologies will have the biggest impact and when they are likely to reach mainstream adoption.Vendors are currently enabling BI and performance management with a wide variety of technologies. However, as the priority matrix illustrates, it is occurring in different forms and at different rates. The observations of trends that show up in the priority matrix are useful to keep in mind when pitching solutions in the BI market. For example, the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies is considered to be of substantially high benefit in the mid-term.The heavy consolidation period in the BI market resulted in a “significant number of mergers and acquisitions which have required vendors to process deals from an organisational and technological perspective”.Gartner explains that this is the reason there has not been a wave in new technologies in the BI market. Integration has replaced innovation in over the past year, with the only new technology to have popped up on the Hype cycle radar being collaborative decision making – a hybrid of BI and social networking.Some BI technologies such as BI platforms, CPM suites, web analytics, and budgeting, planning and forecasting applications, have been around for a few years and are considered to be very mature in the market. At the same time, there are technologies and trends emerging that will have a high impact on the delivery of BI. “Many technologies and trends – such as BI mash-ups, interactive visualisation, in-memory analytics, SaaS, or open-source BI – have the potential to disrupt the BI market space significantly,” predicts Gartner. By keeping an eye on these emerging trends you may find yourself with more opportunities in the BI space.Web 2.0The adoption of Web 2.0 technologies is considered to be of substantially high benefit in the mid-term, according to Gartner’s Hype cycle. Bhavish Sood, Principal Analyst for Gartner, believes that Web 2.0 is an emerging and exciting area of business intelligence, particularly in terms of collaborative decision making. Sood states that Web 2.0 will enable the use of Web services to be expanded, transforming the composition of business applications and driving the pervasive use of BI to reach more users within and outside an organisation.“The largest effect that Web 2.0 will have on BI is the ability to synthesise, tag and share information, as well as delivering analysis more easily with a greater variety of delivery methods. Web 2.0-centric BI platforms will enable easier integration of semi-structured and unstructured data, as well as the establishment of new clusters of users fostering greater knowledge sharing and collaboration.The BI platforms that utilise mash-up concepts and technologies will enable companies to create rich internet-based analytic applications, and to deliver an experience in using BI that’s akin to their daily use of consumer web applications and, therefore, more likely to be readily adopted,” says Sood. He goes on to explain how the application of widely used web development tools, such as Adobe Flash Player, has the potential to greatly increase its exposure within the larger community of web developers.Software as a Service (SaaS)SaaS is a relatively new approach to business intelligence. Currently very few mainstream vendors are delivering their reporting or analysis capabilities using SaaS. Market demand for this hosted model from end-user organisations is also very low. However, Gartner states “While the BI community has been slow to embrace alternative delivery models, the SaaS model makes sense for mid-size organisations that lack a large IT staff, but still need to respond to comprehensive BI requirements.” With this in mind, Gartner predicts that SaaS will create more of an impact in business intelligence by delivering narrowly defined analytic applications, as opposed to completely hosting an entire BI and data warehouse infrastructure.“The combination of the SaaS model with BI platforms and data warehouse best practices creates a unique opportunity for trusted information aggregators to collect data from many competitors within the same industry, to aggregate the data consistently and to provide ‘apples to apples’ benchmarks,” says Gartner.Looking aheadAn October 2009 Forrester report, Market overview: The business intelligence software market, by Holger Kisker (with Peter O’Neill, Boris Evelson, and Miroslaw Lisserman), states the growth of the BI market in the coming years will be fuelled by new innovation. New categories of advanced analytics, including business performance solutions, text analytics, predictive analytics and complex event processing, will make BI more important than ever before. Kisker writes: “Each of these market sectors will grow at its own pace and will converge over time into core BI as new sectors emerge. Success in each sector will require differing strategies, but opportunity for smaller, nimbler players is clearly there despite the recent surge of mergers and acquisitions activity.”It is clear that demand in the BI market is becoming increasingly sophisticated. In addition to this, Sood states: “New Zealand is an established IT market, and continues to be a test bed for the launch of major technologies in the Asia Pacific region.” In such a technologicallysavvy market, take advantage of the changing BI culture and create opportunities for better margins through the new emerging trends.