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Smooth sailing on the next BI wave

IDC's Dan Vessett and Brian McDonough have just released a report that paints an intriguing and optimistic view of the worldwide business intelligence (BI) market. Last year, license and maintenance revenue jumped to $5.7 billion, an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year. They expect growth to continue for the next 15 years.

McDonough and Vessett explain that the business intelligence market follows 15-year cycles, and another one began in 2005. The first, from 1975 to 1990, was followed by what they call the "modern era" and marked by user-friendlier client/server-based BI tools. From now until 2020, they see investment growing, centered on expanding the reach of business intelligence to more users, both inside and outside the organization, and further automating the decision-making process.

Additionally, BI vendors will concentrate on developing tools to match operational needs, pointing out that about 40 percent of the organizations they studied suffer negative impacts from even a few hours of down time of their BI systems. So, to meet the challenge in the new BI environment, software will become more scalable (to serve increasingly more users) and further evolve from reporting and analysis into fundamental operational systems.

KMWorld has noted regularly that search and discovery vendors have been expanding their offerings to mine unstructured data to deliver structured reports and analysis. It's no surprise, then, that another trend of this new wave of BI will venture into the world of unstructured information. The authors see unstructured content access and analysis as an integral part of BI's new mission.

If you'll indulge me just a bit, the next wave of BI will embrace the spirit and sensibility of knowledge management, because the authors note that some of the new BI applications will likely mirror what are currently viewed as "collaborative communities" and include visualization capabilities with tables, search, comments, notes, ratings and other features. They point out, as well, that the familiar search interface will likely further encourage new users, who previously required BI training. They add, "As such, the search technology has the potential to displace traditional BI tools in certain ad hoc analysis and information retrieval use cases."

We probably all agree that there are too many business abbreviations--and too much jargon--"out there," but here's a term worth remembering, one that we'll likely be hearing a whole lot about as the new business intelligence takes further hold: intelligent process automation (IPA), a term coined by IDC to describe the marriage of business intelligence and business process automation. IPA will automate repeatable, operational decisions for performance management and compliance issues--after all, BI has always been about improving the decision-making process. The authors emphasize the repeatable nature of intelligent process automation because in no way is it intended to replace strategic, executive-level decisions.

I wish we had permission (and room) to describe the BI vendor analysis that Vessett and McDonough performed--it's the single most enlightening description I've ever seen of the unique strengths--and weaknesses--the top vendors bring to the market. [FYI: Business Objects comes in number 1 in market share, SAS Institute number 2 and Cognos number 3, as they have since 2003.]

What's mentioned above is a mere surface-scratch of the full study, but it's a decent indicator of what we can expect from solutions that have done so much heavy, if awkward, lifting behind the scenes. The new BI will be much more visible, embracing vast numbers of new users--from both inside and outside the enterprise.

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