Several organizations are rethinking their business intelligence strategies due many factors. R "Ray" Wang recently did a great research on this issue and published some results in his blog, in an article entitled Rethink Your Next Generation Business Intelligence Strategy. The research report is well detailed and graphically illustrated, and is worth reading. Accordind Wang, the research from this document came from conversations with 37 buyers (users) and the following sellers (vendors): Actuate, IBM Cognos, Informatica, Information Builders, myDials, Oracle, QlikTech, Proferi, SAP Business Objects and SAS Institute. Below is a summary of Wang's research:
As BI continues to evolve from fragmented and historical reporting to pervasive, predictive, and real-time decision support, an organization’s success increasingly depends on the support for a expanding information:
- New and traditional data types. A proliferation of data types from social, machine to machine, and mobile sources add new data types to traditional transactional data.
- Visualization and reporting paradigms. Users expect more than the traditional charts, gauges, and dials. Web 2.0 innovations show how Rich Internet Applications (RIA) through tools such as AJAX, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight can create interactive BI experiences.
- Approaches and styles. Analytical techniques continue to improve as data volumes explode. New and traditional approaches include advanced analytics, business activity monitoring (BAM), BI workspace, decision support systems, low latency BI, meta data generated BI apps, non-modeled exploration and in-memory analytics, scenario analysis, and OLAP.
- Deployment options. With data coming from so many different sources, users are seeking new deployment options. Common solutions in the BI portfolio include BI appliances, BI in the Cloud, BI specific DBMS, Mobile BI, open source BI, on-premises packaged BI apps, private BI clouds, and SaaS based BI.
Figure: The Information Management Matrix Drives Next Gen BI
Copyright © 2010 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.
The explosion in semi-structured and unstructured data challenges existing solutions. Unfortunately, no single vendor can support all the data types that fit into the following three categories:
- Structured data. Structured data remains the most understood type of data. Traditional sources comprise of data in transactional systems such as ERP, CRM, SCM and other database management systems.
- Semi-structured data. Common examples include flat files in record format, RSS feeds, XML documents, and data in spreadsheets.
- Unstructured data. Sources include natural-language text from e-mail, blogs, SMS, social networking sites, text fields, audio, video, and images.
Wang listed 10 emerging and evolving next gen requirements that span dynamic user experiences, business process focus, and community connectedness:
1 - Support role based designs.
2 - Deliver consistent experience across channels and deployment options. 3 - Enable contextual, timely, and relevant delivery of information.
4 - Align with configurable and adaptive business processes.
5 - Facilitate outcome-focus and results-orientation.
6 - Foster proactive, predictive, & actionable insight.
7 - Empower all types of stakeholders.
8 - Provide pervasive and natural collaboration.
9 - Engage self-learning and self-awareness.
10- Permit security, scalability, and safety.
The long term BI strategy must support a multi-disciplinary integrated approach, he mentioned:
- Business process management. A strong linkage between BI and business process management will enable operational BI (OBI). Organizations will transition from reactive to proactive process management.
- Content management. Unstructured information tied back to BI will bring new dimensions to information management. Organizations can expect improved informed decision making and richer context to analytical reports.
- Data governance. Formulation of an organizational strategy and data stewardship methodology must align with the BI strategy. Organizations must model business rules and controls that span cross-functional teams to improve the success of data quality and BI deployments.
- Master data management. Master data management forms the foundation of successful BI engagements by acquiring, cleaning, distributing, organizing, and managing master data.
- Social technologies. BI’s reach into social apps and the social metadata layer bodes well for an industry just starting to explore social technologies.
Comparing Vendor BI Strategies, Wang listed 3 approaches:
- Application and business process centric. These solutions take an application or business process centered approach based on applications such as ERP and CRM.
- Pure play best of breeds. These solutions provide deep capabilities in a subset of data types, visualization and reporting paradigms, BI approaches and styles, and deployment deployment options.
- Strategic BI platforms. These solutions seek to build a comprehensive approach to supporting data types, visualization and reporting paradigms, and BI approaches and styles.
When evaluating next gen BI strategies, Wang said to consider the following best practices in vendor selection:
- Focus on enabling all types of users. Solutions should enable anyone from a front line employee to a power user to view reports, build ad-hoc reports, collaborate, and improve decision making.
- Support highly differentiated processes. Take advantage of industry specific solutions that meet critical vertical requirements and reduce time to market. Over time, expect BI to continue to specialize by verticals. Certain industries will require different levels of information optimization.
- Stay flexible. Ensure the systems supports multi-channel heterogeneous data sources.
- Avoid vendor lock-in to one set of technologies.
- Expect to move beyond departmental. Choose technology approaches and styles that can scale across different business functions, data types, reporting paradigms, and deployment options.
- Factor existing infrastructure. Consider when it makes sense to invest in or throw out existing systems. Astute next gen enterprises find ways to simultaneously leverage existing investments and innovate.
- Apply selection tools. Save time and use independent vendor selection short list and check list tools to map business requirements such as organization and team structure, business and process maturity, technology strategy, and technology solution ecosystem.
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