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BI is booming but more data is on the way

In a keynote at the DCI show, consultant Douglas Hackney said that these are high times for business intelligence vendors. Yet he urged companies to prepare for having more data and less time to make sense of it all.

BOSTON -- What a difference a year makes.

In June 2001, Douglas Hackney, president of Carlsbad, Calif.-based consulting firm Enterprise Group Ltd., delivered his keynote at DCI's CRM Conference and Expo, stressing rapidly expanding data warehouses, the proliferation of data and data sources, and ever-expanding applications for business intelligence. In short, Hackney envisioned a "BI tsunami" that would bring business intelligence into all areas of our lives.

Today, the terabyte to petabyte trend continues, but the context has changed. While business intelligence continues to find new applications, in this year's keynote Hackney pointed out that business intelligence vendors are finding themselves in a rare and enviable position in the software market as a whole: For the most part, they are succeeding.

"BI is one of the few fast-growing spaces in technology as a whole," Hackney said. "BI companies are the few that are making their numbers."

The bottom line, Hackney said, is that "BI is real. It's valid."

Yet, the data that fuels business intelligence is coming from an ever-increasing number of sources, including media services such as digital television technology like TiVo, and geo-specific services such as cell phones and PDAs, where the device also sends data about its own whereabouts. Wireless Web pages, for example, are growing at a rate of 10 times per month, Hackney said.

Hackney outlined three trends in the current business intelligence boom: more systems, processes and channels, more data, and less time.

"We are not prepared for the reality of the new world of data volumes that lie just over the horizon," Hackney said.

User expectations about access to data are growing as well. "We haven't seen an RFP that didn't include the word 'real-time' in over two years," said Hackney.

'Real-time' may be gaining in popularity, Hackney added, but the term 'data warehousing' appears to be losing fashion. Hackney described looking at recent advertisements for business intelligence vendors and being struck by the fact that "there was not one single instance of data warehousing in their ad copy." Not that data warehousing technology isn't useful, but Hackney feels it doesn't resonate with users as a moneymaking investment.

Instead, he advises technologists to work on their soft skills.

"If you made a list of the top 200 things we're good at," Hackney said, "Number 199 would be political savvy, and number 200 would be communication."

The soft stuff may be hard, Hackney said, but it's essential. Users won't pay for what they can't understand.


Read SearchCRM's coverage of last year's DCI conference keynote on business intelligence

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