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Shifting sands to buoy BI

At a time when market changes are making things tough on IT decision makers, relatively new business intelligence niches like BAM and EII will help drive the industry.

<p>SAN DIEGO -- The <a href=" ">business intelligence</a> (BI) software market will continue to experience healthy growth for the foreseeable future, but consolidation and changing product categories will make IT decision making difficult, according to a top Gartner analyst. </p>

<p>The need for BI is more pressing than ever, Gartner vice president Howard Dresner said in a presentation at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo. The pressure on organizations to adapt to complex new regulatory requirements, streamline processes and monitor the competition has only strengthened the need for analysis, he said. Dresner predicts the overall market will grow by more than 8.5% in 2004. </p>
<p>But the market is also changing rapidly. Among the new concepts that have emerged recently are business activity monitoring (BAM), which alerts businesses to material changes in the environment in real time, and enterprise information integration (EII), which promises to knit virtual <a href=" ">data warehouses</a> from operational data stacks. At the same time, BI technology platforms and analytics suites, which have heretofore been separate markets, are becoming less distinguishable. </p>

<p>The best defense strategy for IT, Dresner said, is to establish a BI competency center. "Take those skills in the enterprise that know how to use tools the right way and centralize them," he advised. "We consider this to be a best practice." </p>

<p>However, the concept of a competency center is still a tough sell for IT organizations. In an audience show of hands, only a smattering of attendees indicated that they had established one. "Trying to pull a competency center together for a large company is a huge undertaking," said attendee Ralph Martino, who is data warehouse manager for Chase Credit Card Corp. "I'm not sure the benefit is there just yet, but I intend to go back home and advocate for it." </p>

<p>Turning to architecture, Dresner advised users to build large central data warehouses, containing a "single version of the truth," rather than a network of smaller data marts. He characterized the distributed approach as a cyclical fad and compared it to assembling a chicken out of component parts purchased at the supermarket. "You might get something, but it will never lay eggs," he said. </p>

<p>The analyst said the future of BI will be characterized by consolidation and scale. He expects that software vendors will improve overall scalability of their products tenfold over the next three years. He also said that formerly discrete markets will merge. Enterprise business intelligence suites, which provide basic query and reporting, are blending with advanced analytics and application development tools typically marketed as BI platforms. He predicted that users will soon be able to buy integrated suites that also provide robust features like predictive analytics. </p>

<p>All this will make product selection trickier. Dresner said too many IT organizations still have a knee-jerk reaction that leads them to buy packaged applications without thinking about the skills and infrastructure sets that are required to run them. More companies should build their own BI functionality, he said. </p>

<p>Dresner also predicted that the BAM market will drive a lot of growth, despite its rather fuzzy definition. Real-time monitoring of business events is a huge benefit to companies in competitive industries, and the technology is coming on board to make it possible to deliver alerts much faster. He predicted that Web services, collaboration and wireless information delivery will come together to deliver BI networks, driven by BAM alerts. However, he said that market will probably be dominated by new vendors and not the current crop of BI software leaders. </p>

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