I must have attended a few dozen BI vendor conferences large and small over the years and sat through many hundred BI briefings. And I have to admit, that my expectations have largely decreased over time. Maybe it’s because the market is considered mature, maybe because I have heard every possible marketing claim, maybe I’ve been around the block a few times. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m missing something.
Sure, the BI market has enjoyed consistent growth, has seen a lot of action on the M&A front, technology has advanced significantly (I remember when gigabytes were considered wild), and yet we are still discussing same old business intelligence. I keep hearing vendors announce that the next version of their tool will be able to address that untapped market within their customer base, growing penetration beyond those 10-15% that are using BI today. I heard this 5 years ago already, but what has changed since then? Not much.
So the tools have a nicer UI, can scale up and scale out, are interactive, and can be mashed, and so on. And yet, BI licenses are not really flying off the shelves because of all the new cool stuff that is available. So the vendors started buying up and down the stack, into performance management, data integration, master data management, data quality, etc. Technology advanced towards in-memory analytics, data warehouses grew into petabyte range (not many yet, but still quite the accomplishment), Web 2.0 technology allows to build mashups from Google Earth and heatmaps and alerts and visualize the whole thing on an iPhone. What does it all help if people think what they want are “reports”? Ugh.
Here’s the thing. We have done Integration (or at least we are underway): IBM integrates Cognos, Applix, Ascential, DWL, Unicorn,.. SAP integrates Business Objects, Pilot, Firstlogic, Fuzzy, Outlooksoft, Cartesis,… Microsoft integrates Stratature, Datallegro, Zoomix,… Oracle integrates all the rest, Siebel, PeopleSoft, Hyperion, Sunopsis, BEA.
We have done Innovation. Compared to the old days of “management reporting”, new available technology is to die for, from wildly scalable data warehouse appliances, to predictive modeling and mobile BI, all based on SOA, then delivered through software-as-a-service, or through open source license models.
What’s missing is Inspiration. It does look like potential buyers are caught in the “reporting web”, users seem to be largely oblivious to the current developments, and so the great potential value of BI is simply missed because of a lack of BI exposure. Of course, it doesn’t help if attendees at said conferences are bombarded with tech talk about the next great feature. But nobody enables the potential BI users to think outside the “reporting box” and answer the question “what would happen if BI could do that?”
I, for one, can’t say that I’m truly inspired by the messages from the BI vendors. But that’s just me.