First, I agree with most of the coverage of business intelligence 2.0 so far: yes, the term is a little tacky — but it’s irresistible (and a great way of finding people blogging about Business Intelligence)
An irresistible term
A great example is the experience of Gartner’s Andy Bitterer. Despite his criticism of the term, he couldn’t resist mentioning it (negatively) during his keynote at Gartner’s BI Summit in London. The result? An article in ZDNet UK called “Gartner: It’s business intelligence 2.0 time” — much to Andy’s disgust.
One of the reasons that BI 2.0 is irresistible is because it works as a marketing term. I suspect they the following companies are getting more readers (and blog links such as one) than they might otherwise inspire, thanks to their BI 2.0 white papers:
- Spotfire (2 different papers)
- Celequest (now part of Cognos)
- SeeWhy (by Charles Nicholls, a former colleague)
Everybody pretty much agrees what it is
There’s plenty of good content in the various BI 2.0 posts and white papers, across a wide variety of different topics. But reading all the materials, I was struck by two things:
- For perhaps the first time in the BI industry, there’s a remarkable amount of agreement across all the analysts and vendors about what the next version of BI should look like
- There’s very little that’s new, at least in terms of vision. For example, one of the articles talks about “an emerging era for BI will bring simplicity, broad access and better ties between analysis and action” — implying perhaps that for the last fifteen years we’ve been aiming for complex, narrow access leading to inaction?
Over the last few years new technologies have helped solve some of the problems that have prevented greater use of BI, but there’s been little real disruption. But that may be changing.
Is BI 2.0 really just a compiled list of new features?
Colin White compiled a handy list of some of the things that people are talking about under the banner of BI 2.0:
- Performance management and integrated planning
- Operational and embedded BI
- Business portal, performance workspace and Microsoft Office integration
- BI search and collaboration
- Advanced visualization techniques
- Advanced predictive analytics
- BI as a service (SOA and SaaS)
- Open source BI
- Enterprise data integration
- Unstructured and Web 2.0 data
- Master data management
- Data warehouse and BI appliances
- BI and data integration centers of excellence
And there are plenty of others (BI appliances, closing the loop, decision process mapping…) I suppose this long list qualifies as BI 2.0, because all these things are going to feature in future BI products, but I can’t help feeling that it misses some of the ethos behind the “2.0” moniker.
What if BI 2.0 were more like Web 2.0?
The term Web 2.0 means lots of things to lots of people, but its origins were very different from the BI 2.0 outlined above:
- It came from the consumer space first, and now is slowly moving into the business world
- The term was coined after the fact, rather than being a conscious goal (at least in the early days)
- The web 2.0 solutions typically displaced the existing offerings, rather than coming from the existing players
- It’s about people more than technology. For all the mockery it received, Time magazine’s Person of the Year article got one thing exactly right: that Web 2.0 is about “bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.”
What would BI 2.0 look like with these definitions?
It would start with consumer needs
I have very few nice things to say about Michael Saylor, CEO of Microstrategy. But he had a great knack of talking about BI in consumer terms, coining terms like the “query tone” and “telepath” to describe how the technology could benefit individuals:
Fortune Magazine: “I want to know when my wife’s in the hospital or my boat is smacked or my equities are in trouble or the government’s unstable and something has happened to my hometown. I think that people will surrender their personal information to a centralized intelligence dynamo…because the cost of not doing so is an early death, an accidental death, a lack of an opportunity, a lack of income, a lack of happiness.”
Slate Magazine: “A voice in your ear will caution you not to take that medicine, urge you to sell that stock because it is tumbling, advise you which road to take to avoid traffic. He will turn intelligence into a utility, and he will be its Ford and its Edison”
Needless to say, Microstrategy failed to deliver on the vision. But somebody will. How will that that solution interact with the BI in organizations today?
It would be about community first, functionality second
Every big Web 2.0 success has started with a simple-yet-compelling offer and used that to build a community, then expanded with extra functionality. What would this mean in (consumer) BI terms? What are the consumer equivalents of the type of multi-person information sharing characterized by traditional BI?
It wouldn’t come from the traditional vendors
Let me start with a caveat. My old boss, Dave Kellogg, used to say that the web was the first big revolution that didn’t take people by surprise. His point was that while the web would bring new opportunities, companies today are well aware of the innovator’s dilemma, and know they have to work hard to adapt to new technology, before the market passes them by. For example, the move from full client to the web did not significantly change the vendor landscape in the BI market.
I suspect the same thing will happen with BI 2.0. Because establish vendors know it’s coming, they’re on the lookout, but the most innovative approaches might well come from outside the traditional market boundaries. We’re already seeing this in the enterprise space with BI-like technology from search vendors like FAST.
The real outsiders will be companies that think they’re in the “mashup business,” and they might well be the driving force behind the new BI 2.0 market. Traditional vendors will have to move fast to jump on the new opportunities if they are to retain their market positions.
Early examples of BI 2.0?
BI 2.0 will come about through a blending of consumer-oriente
d information mashup technologies with extranet-oriented traditional BI solutions. Here are some technologies that I believe partially meet the criteria outlined above.
- www.swivel.com, ManyEyes, etc. Flikr for fans of statistics. See blog posting.
- www.gapminder.org Using information for the good of humanity: sharing human development statistics in a very visual, interactive way [UPDATE: now part of Google]
- Yahoo! pipes, Proto, etc. Consumer-oriented web data integration. See blog hosting.
- Business Objects Labs. Because of the lab approach with free downloads, the Graphics Masher, and Query as a web service, which lets normal people create powerful information-delivery web services.
- CrystalReports.com. Not because it’s a software as a service — other vendors, including SAS, CeleQuest, and LucidEra have SaaS options — but because of the simplicity, applicability to individuals/small groups, and the ability to sign up for the basic service for free (there has to be a copy of Crystal Reports somewhere).
It’s clear that nobody has yet had the last word on what BI 2.0 might mean. Here are some other takes: