Part two in matters arising from CeBIT Australia 2006. Part one is my overview of future trends (revised). Part three is on the future of broadband, a crucial aspect of information integration.
What is “Business Intelligence”? In a nutshell, it encompasses database query, data analysis, and reporting functions, usually wrapped in a single software package. Typically, it runs off a data warehouse or data mart, a database (often denormalised) that is fed information from, and is offline from, an organisation’s transaction database(s). This can often utilise data ‘cubes’ extracted from the database for ease of analysis, but it doesn’t have to.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way. The term is widely misunderstood or abused, going by its categorisation at CeBIT Australia 2006. Some of it was likely to be due to over-zealous marketing, but I think there are some genuine misconceptions, as would happen with any term that has its fifteen minutes of fame as a buzzword.
The most common misuse is to describe any reporting as BI. A suite of reports is not BI if you can’t dynamically query data, analyse it (with pivot tables, for example), and create custom reports. Some of the self-styled BI exhibitors had a small set of pre-canned reports; some could create custom reports - in a limited way. Only one - Yellowfin - could perform most BI functions.
Pronto said they had a business intelligence module – but it wasn’t installed at the show. Others, including Sage, swore they were in development as we spoke. However, the overall record is poor. I talked to 13 companies purporting to do BI, and found only one had a product to demonstrate that remotely approached Business Intelligence.
There was even one or two - Baycorp being an egregious example - that categorised themselves Business Intelligence because they provided an information service to business. Well yes, but it’s not BI in an IT sense.
Aggressive marketers aside, it sounds like some education is needed, even within the IT world.