To successfully provide information in a form that business people can use, you need three types of technology, to:
- Tame information chaos: Collect, manage, and integrate information, and fix any data quality problems (data quality, data integration, metadata management, etc)
- Turn information into insight: Analyze the information, gain understanding of what is happening, and communicate it to others (query, analysis, reporting, etc.)
- Use insight to drive change: Support processes for turning understanding into action (scorecards, budgeting and planning, profitability analysis, financial consolidation, analytics, etc.)
There’s general agreement that all these things are needed, but the exact definition and name of each category is hotly debated.
Is the whole thing called Performance Management or Business Intelligence? Which includes which? Or are they separate, but overlapping terms? And of course neither is possible without a solid information platform — is data integration part of BI? Is metadata management part of PM?
Whatever the differences, the category edges are blurring, and there are fewer vendors that have products only in one area.
- Between PM and BI. Performance management and business intelligence are essentially two sides of the same coin: there’s no point of defining key performance indicators unless you can track them, and there’s no point in measuring anything unless you have an idea of what it should be.
- Between BI and IM. The prettiest chart in the world is useless unless the data in it can be trusted, and BI and search are starting to overlap.
- Between IM and PM. Compliance rules mean organizations want to be able to drill back to find where each financial figure came from and when it was last updated.
Time for a new name?
If we believe that there is increasing overlap between these categories, and all are needed for effective information use, what is the “whole thing” called?
For obvious reasons, vendors are trying to extend the terms that they are most closely associated with (e.g. Business Objects prefers BI, Hyperion prefers PM) to include the other categories. But these terms are starting to sound dated, and are firmly associated with only part of the overall need and particular users (e.g. BI = IT/query and reporting, PM = finance function/planning and budgeting). And Gartner views information management as a broad umbrella term that includes all kinds of storage and workflow technology.
So, isn’t it time for a name? Something that we can all agree on, and use to promote the value of what we all do, rather than bickering about terms?