BI 2.0?

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:

Interestingly enough, three out of the four papers were written by Neil Raden, and he’s also written an Intelligent Enterprise article on the subject.

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.

Other links

It’s clear that nobody has yet had the last word on what BI 2.0 might mean. Here are some other takes:

4 Replies to “BI 2.0?”

  1. Timo– very interesting post. At Proto, two of the things we talk about in the BI space a lot are:
    1) Putting ability to tackle small, local BI problems into the hands of vastly more people. Right now, loads and loads of BI users out there are just dumping data out of their real BI system so that they can slice ‘n’ dice it in Excel. We want to give these analytical but not necessarily super technical users to ability to do more advanced and less error prone BI analysis, and to be able to share that easily with their colleagues.
    2) Related to that, and probably our most “2.0-ish” belief is that there is a lot to be gained by making it easier for the whole continuum of users to collaborate on solving BI problems. If the guy who’s responsibility it is to write the report is really a DBA and doesn’t get the business problem, you’re headed to a situation where the end user and the technocal person go back and forth through loads of revisions to get something right. We’re trying to make it possible for people’s responsibilities to overlap a bit more, in the belief that this will lead to better solutions delivered more quickly.
    Using Proto, a non-technical person can still drag and drop to create the screen they want to see, and they can send that to someone more technical to “wire up”. It’s amazing to see how quickly going through this exercise makes people realize “oh, no, I don’t actually want that field, I want this one.” Technical people can produce components that are easy for less technical users to consume.
    Anyway, I apologize for getting rambly in your comment section so I’ll cut myself off, but if you have an opportunity to look at Proto I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. Interesting post and thanks for linking to my article on BI 2.0 and EDM. I think the comments you quoted are particularly interesting.
    Unlike Mr Saylor I don’t
    “want to know when … my equities are in trouble” I want a system to do something useful when my equities are in trouble or even better BEFORE they are in trouble. This is about taking action based on insight (Enterprise Decision Management), not just about insight (BI x.0).
    Similarly If you want “A voice in your ear” to “caution you not to take that medicine” that requires the rules to manage drug interactions (as several companies are doing) not BI and so on.
    People need informed decisions turned into a utility, not just or always information.
    JT
    P.S. Perhaps the Slate journalist meant to say “he will be its Edsel”?

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