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Data warehouses will explode in size

Enterprise Group's president calls Business Intelligence a prerequisite for businesses today to perform CRM, supply chain management (SCM) and e-business functions.

BOSTON -- If you're in charge of managing a data warehouse, be aware that the data will morph from mere terabytes to petabytes, and Business Intelligence (BI) will be at the forefront of it all. BI is already a prerequisite for businesses today to perform CRM, supply chain management (SCM) and e-business functions, said Douglas Hackney, president of Carlsbad, Calif.-based consulting firm Enterprise Group Ltd., in his keynote here at DCI's CRM Conference and Expo.

"The message is, (BI) is a lot closer than you think," he said.

Businesses are searching for something to differentiate themselves from their competition, and part of that is the ability to utilize the customer data in their data warehouses. As other market segments slow in growth, BI will garner more attention, Hackney said.

"There are literally millions of data marts and data warehouses in the world," he said. "BI is becoming ubiquitous. ...Your dentist will soon have a data warehouse or data mart."

Very few vendors are capable of serving this market, and only one -- Microsoft -- has collected a large market share in the mid-size business space. The Microsoft software can quickly impact the business and comes in a neat little package, which can be installed with a small team. The end result is a low total cost of ownership for the software, Hackney said. "It's hard to spend a whole ton of money on an NT box."

Data is also being pulled in from many more sources than just the call center. With the explosion in Internet use, data pours into data warehouses very quickly. In fact, corporate structured data -- the kind of data that features categories such as name, address and telephone number -- is doubling each year, Hackney said.

Soon, data will also stream in from smart appliances, such as a refrigerator, which will let the repair facility know when a motor is reaching its last leg, he added.

Some IT workers may find the task of integrating and analyzing this data very daunting. Two attendees of Hackney's speech were unfazed, however.

"It's job security to some point," said Peter Underwood, a software engineer at a Boston-based international financial services group. Everything Hackney said was a confirmation of the direction that the BI market is heading, he added.

"Internal users want to get to that low-level data in disparate systems. It's insatiable," said Jay McLaughlin, IS manager for the same financial services group. As more internal users become interested in that data, the focus will shift away from technical skills for those users, as they will want an easy-to-use interface. Therefore, the onus will be on the IT people to bring it all together, he said.

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