There’s been a lot of discussion about BI in difficult times; to what extent is it rewarding to invest in BI, and why do so many projects appear to be unsuccessful? When we talk about Business Intelligence, especially for big companies, we talk about processing data (from databases and applications) into actionable information.
Clearly-defined Oracle database
This is the traditional Business Intelligence that companies like Cognos and Business Objects have been working on for years, and that Gartner publishes an annual BI Quadrant about. One of the problems with this type of solution is that a lot of the data needed to get the proper management information isn’t contained in a clearly-defined Oracle database with a metadata layer on top of it. It’s also not in SAP/R3 with structure and security that we, with some difficulty, can reach. No, it’s in web pages, PDF files, Powerpoint presentations, emails, and Word documents, where there are very few standard definitions, and even fewer access rules.
The problem will be ten times as complex
Within traditional BI, there are enough problems with one definition of the truth. We often see multiple definitions within one company for concepts like profit or supply, and that only within structured files. The problem will become ten times as complex if we can also search Office documents for the same concepts.
All data from all sources
The winner of the previous edition of the BI Award, Albert Heijn’s Egbert Dijkstra, said in his presentation that one of the most important decisions in designing their winning BI system was “all data from all sources”. It could well be that this is an important cause of the success of BI for Albert Heijn.
People don’t believe the numbers
It’s certainly true that one of the most important reasons for people not accepting BI is that they don’t believe the numbers that come out of it. The expression “half truths are whole lies” often applies. It would be too easy to say that Enterprise Search is still in its infancy. Analysts are expecting a revenue of $450 to $500 million for Business Intelligence software, but the names of market leaders – Autonomy, Endeca, Zylab, and Vivisimo – aren’t very well-known.
Revolution from unstructured sources
Nevertheless, we’re seeing the same moves as in the structured information (BI) marketplace; Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Microsoft have all invested in Enterprise Search as a part of their Information Management platforms. In the near future we can expect a revolution in the area of information from unstructured sources, probably with every famous BI name and supplemented with Google, to complete our truth.
For more information, contact Daan van Beek, industry expert and managing director of Passionned Group.